Local developer Lewis Robinson III is proposing a project for the town of West Yellowstone that includes a grizzly bear sanctuary, international ski training center and university research park.
Robinson's Park Station project, estimated to cost more than $50 million, will be built on land purchased by the Union Pacific Railroad in the early 1900s for development of a 1,000-room resort hotel.The hotel was never built. Railroad officials approached Robinson in 1985 about developing the land and the two parties formulated Park Station over two years.
Robinson has developed the Madison Addition, the only subdivision annexed to the original townsite since West Yellowstone's birth 80 years ago. Park Station would add 87 acres to the town and could provide up to 560 jobs.
He holds the land under a limited partnership with Upland Industries of Salt Lake City, a land-holding company for the railroad.
Named Park Station to tie into a railroad theme, a miniature narrow-gauge railroad is slated to provide transportation within the development.
West Yellowstone was settled in 1908 when the Oregon Short Line Railroad was extended to the west gate of Yellowstone National Park.
Robinson plans to ask the City Council to annex the needed property before he begins construction this summer.
Park Station has met with some opposition. Local merchants fear it will spread the tourist dollar too thin for them all to survive.
A key element of Park Station will be a 25-acre grizzly bear sanctuary that Robinson said could draw millions of visitors to town.
While he intends to donate land for a number of projects, "the sanctuary is the only facility I will have anything to do with personally," he said.
He intends to fill the $6 million sanctuary with aggressive, problem grizzlies that would otherwise be destroyed.
One of the first commercial lots that will be developed is an IMAX (Image Maximization) Theater. The theater will be built by Cinema Group of Los Angeles, which has produced movies such as "Flashdance" and "Star Trek III."
Robinson also has offered to donate an acre of land for a new post office. The office would be built by private contractor and leased to the Postal Service.
A five-acre lot has been designated for a $10.5 million resort hotel.
"I know there's been a lot of concern there," Robinson said. Local residents will have first option to buy and develop the land, but Robinson said if no one makes an offer, he will look for a hotel chain or investment group to build a 150- to 200-unit hotel.
Chamber President Ken Takata said "a hotel of that caliber is needed," as West Yellowstone draws visitors from all over the world looking for fine accommodations.
Robinson also envisions an international center for training ski teams, including the U.S. biathlon and nordic ski teams.
Universities have been offered land to build research facilities at Park Station.
Several schools spent more than $3 million last year "just kind of wandering from geothermal pools to biological activities," Robinson said.
Alumni associations will be contacted about raising the funds to build the structures on lots Robinson would donate.