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A frigid cold winter has made it difficult for new construcion like the new Cowboy Jack Saloon and Country Inn and Suites along the South Shore of Lake Bemidji. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

Constructing in the cold; Developer: Sanford-connected hotel on track despite delays

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BEMIDJI — Developers say the subzero weather hasn’t frozen construction of the Country Inn & Suites hotel and Cowboy Jack’s restaurant planned to be attached to the Sanford Center.

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Wayzata-based Bay Ridge Properties International is developing the properties and broke ground in September after 18 months of negotiations.

Bay Ridge CEO Tripp Snyder said last week the company’s goal is for the western-themed restaurant to open in late May and the 121-unit hotel to open in July.

Snyder had said in September that Bay Ridge hoped for Cowboy Jack’s to be open in the winter and the hotel be open in the May to June range.

“The original schedule has a little bit of leeway in it anticipating some poor weather,” he said Tuesday. “And we’ve had it, obviously.”

Lead contractor Kraus-Anderson Construction has also accelerated the building schedule to make up for lost time, Snyder said. Steel framework was scheduled to begin going up this week.

“They’ll be working on that for the next … month, maybe six weeks, have the entire steel framework up, and once that framework is up they’ll enclose the building and start working on the interior,” he said.

Snyder sympathized with the construction crews working in adverse winter weather.

“I don’t imagine that’s a lot of fun,” he said.

The developer now is ordering fixtures and furniture.

“So far, with the exception of a couple of weather delays, everything’s fine,” Snyder said.

Hiring is planned to begin three or four months before the hotel/restaurant opens so the facility will have a fully trained staff. The hotel will have about 30 employees and the restaurant will staff somewhere between 60 to 80 employees, he said. If the Bemidji Cowboy Jack’s proves to be as popular as those in the Twin Cities metro, Snyder said, the actual number will be closer to 80. However, day-to-day operations at Cowboy Jack’s will be handled by their corporate management, not Bay Ridge, he said.

In addition to the new jobs, the project may help land big conventions and other events for the Sanford Center once it’s actually built.

VisitBemidji director Denelle Hilliard said the center has actually been passed over for conventions because the existing hotels on the south shore are too far away for event goers to walk to in the winter cold.

“The want something that’s (an) across-the-street kind of thing,” she said Friday. “We’ve been turned down for conventions because — even though we offer the new DoubleTree and the Hampton Inn — it’s not close enough.”

The new hotel being attached to the Sanford Center will help the Bemidji tourism industry power through the Minnesota winter, Hilliard said.

“We have seven months of winter, so any time we can make it convenient and work with what have … is a benefit,” she said.

City Manager John Chattin also thought the new hotel/restaurant would be helpful in attracting big conventions and attendance for other events..

“We have a need for additional hotel rooms,” he said. “As far as … activities at the event center, it’s certainly going to make it much more convenient for people to attend events and stay there and also to attend conventions and conferences.”

As far as construction of the hotel, Chattin said the crews were likely working as rapidly as could be expected.

“They’re probably going as fast as they can, given the weather,” he said. “Whether it’s the DoubleTree or the Country Inn, everybody wants to see it done yesterday.”

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