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SHERIDAN — The Sheridan Inn may be on one of the last of its nine lives, but a Tulsa-based man with Sheridan roots is hoping to once again breath new life into the historic structure.
Bob Townsend and his wife, Dana, are currently under contract to purchase the Sheridan Inn and the pair hope to close on the property by the end of October.
The Inn was forced to close its doors approximately one year ago after failing to make a $100,000 payment to the Wyoming Bank & Trust in January 2012. At that time, the Inn was run by the Sheridan Heritage Center. The SHC announced in 2012 that it needed $1.4 million to pay down the debt owed to the Cheyenne bank for a loan taken out in 2008 to make repairs to the building’s foundation.
The SHC also needed $2 million to finish construction and renovation of the Inn.
Townsend said in an interview with The Sheridan Press Monday that he plans to finish the Inn in the same manner that was planned by the SHC. This includes finishing the second and third floors to operate as a functioning inn with rooms for rent.
“I think that only makes sense to go ahead and finish that out,” Townsend said. “Those 22 rooms — ideally you’d have more — but those rooms are what will make it viable.
“Anyone who has looked at the building and is willing to finish it with the business model the Heritage Center started, knows that you won’t make a huge profit,” he continued. “But you can make money and you can keep it running in the black.”
Townsend continued by saying that the business model set by the SHC is a good one that should be self-sustaining when completed.
Changes to the building’s plans will be few. Townsend said he hopes to update the lobby to appeal more to guests who plan to stay at the Inn, but plans no major aesthetic overhauls.
“People need that common space to sit around the fire, socialize and we’d like to give them space to do that,” he said of his plans for the lobby area.
Other upgrades to the building will likely include completion of the Inn’s basement for use as conference space and a fitness center for guests.
Townsend said support for his efforts by the community have been through the roof.
“Not even having officially disclosed it, and people are talking to us and wanting to be a part of it,” Townsend said. “And we’ll need some help — giving tours and things like that.”
Townsend is familiar with the Inn’s history and his family even has ties to its past.
“My mom worked there from 1959 to I think it was 1963,” he said.
She was a waitress and knew Miss Kate, he added. His mother was also raised on a small farm/ranch between Parkman and Ranchester.
Townsend’s siblings were born in Sheridan and he himself spent part of his childhood growing up in the shadows of the Bighorns.
His family moved to Sheridan shortly after he was born in Kansas City, Mo., though moved away again when he was about to start first grade. In the summers, Townsend spent his teen years working for a local company and living with his grandmother in Sheridan.
About nine years ago, Townsend and his wife also bought a cabin up Red Grade Road.
Needless to say, the Townsend family has deep roots in the Sheridan area.
“I had always been around the Inn quite a bit,” Townsend said, “and I never had any belief we’d end up owning it. But I was out there (in Sheridan) and noticed the for sale sign probably two and a half to three months ago.
“Since then we’ve been going over eery inch and everything that needs finished,” he said.
He noted that the employees at Wyoming Bank & Trust cared about who the building went to and really wanted the new owner to have ties to the Sheridan community.
“That was important to them, and to us,” Townsend said.
Townsend also understands the importance of the building itself to Sheridan’s culture.
“Our names may be on the deed,” Townsend said. “but, that buildng belongs to the community and to the state and we hope to be good stewards of that. We know what we do will make Sheridan proud of that Inn.”