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MONTE DRAPER | BEMIDJI PIONEER A groundbreaking ceremony for the Country Inn & Suites hotel and Cowboy Jacks restaurant was held Wednesday near the Sanford Center. Shown left, Christopher Campbell, director of development for Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, Pam and Tripp Snyder of Bay Ridge Properties International, Bemidji Mayor Rita Albrecht and Lee Fundanet of Bay Ridge.

Project is shovel-ready: Groundbreaking held for new hotel, restaurant to be connected to Sanford Center

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BEMIDJI -- Referencing the old "it takes a village" adage, Mayor Rita Albrecht quipped Wednesday that "it takes a village to raise up a hotel."

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Albrecht was speaking at groundbreaking ceremonies for a Country Inn & Suites, which will be connected to the Sanford Center on the south shore of Lake Bemidji.

After more than 18 months of negotiations and a final land sale, construction on the 121-unit hotel, which will also feature a Cowboy Jacks restaurant, started last week.

Hotel developer Tripp Snyder, chief executive officer of Bay Ridge Properties International, said complexity of financing for the $15 million project caused the delays. He said he was grateful city and local business leaders, as well as local lenders, stood behind the project.

Albrecht said the City Council, both past and present, also deserve credit for seeing the development through, adding the hotel will be a "key resource" in developing the city's south shore.

After signing a purchase agreement in March 2012 for $756,000, the land sale became official in early August when Bay Ridge paid the final $606,000 for the property.

Kraus-Anderson Construction is the is lead contractor on the 80,163-square-foot hotel and restaurant.

The hotel will feature 47 suite-style rooms, as well as 74 regular king- and queen-sized rooms, Snyder said. Pam Snyder, chief financial officer for Bay Ridge, said the hotel will be a bit more upscale than what people may think when they hear Country Inn & Suites, adding the design team added many new features/styles specific to Bemidji.

The Cowboy Jacks restaurant will be 10,000 square feet, with 6,000 square feet of dining area, as well as an outdoor patio that will seat 100, Snyder said.

Snyder said they are hoping the hotel will be open in the May to June 2014 time frame, but added they are aiming toward having Cowboy Jacks open sometime in the winter.

Having a connected hotel will be a boon to the Sanford Center as it looks to attract events and state, regional and national conferences and conventions, officials said.

And it should help out Bemidji State hockey, as well. Former BSU men's hockey coach Bob Peters said he can't think of another arena home to an NCAA hockey team that has a hotel attached.

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