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Butte, Montana Community Leaders: Unespected Closure of the 146 room
 Copper King Hotel and Convention Center Doesn't Mean Economic Downturn
By John Grant Emeigh, The Montana Standard, ButteMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Sep. 9, 2008 - The closure of the Mining City's 164-bedroom hotel and convention center is not a tell-tale sign of economic doom for the city, according to Butte city and business leaders.

Some members of Butte's lodging association and political leaders held a news conference Monday afternoon at the War Bonnet Inn and tried to alleviate economic concerns spurred by the announced closing of the Copper King Hotel and Convention Center.

The large hotel located at 4655 Harrison Ave. is closing Oct. 1.

During the news conference hosted by the Silver Bow Area Lodging and Hospitality Association, Butte Executive Director Paul Babb tried to assure participants that Butte isn't on an economic downturn.

Despite losing the hotel, Babb said the city has enough lodging for future conventions and events large or small. Babb also claimed Butte's economy was strong and people shouldn't assume the worst.

"It's not the time for our community to say, 'times are bad,'" Babb told the small gathering. "We can talk ourselves into bad times." Butte's summer festivals brought in plenty of tourism and high copper prices have kept the local mining industry strong, he said.

Marko Lucich of the Butte Chamber of Commerce noted that Butte's unemployment rate was only 3.8 percent as of July. He also said that Butte has had $24.5 million in construction since the beginning of this year up until July. Lucich expects construction will continue to grow throughout this year and surpass previous years.

Butte's record high for construction projects was in 2005 at $32.5 million.

An emergency meeting was held Friday with the lodging association, chamber of commerce and other groups to discuss the effect the Copper King Closing may have on the city's lodging industry.

Mark Hughes, president of the lodging association, said Monday that they determined the lodging industry is "in very good shape." Hughes said the city and the surrounding region has about 1,400 rooms available without the Copper King. He noted that the War Bonnet and Fairmont Hot Springs Resort have convention areas that can each host up to 600 attendees.

Bill Melvin, who manages the Butte Civic Center, said during the conference that his facility can also be used to host large conventions that can entertain more than 600 guests.

Hughes noted that Butte has several other locations that could accommodate events and functions displaced by the closing of the hotel. He noted events and tournaments may be held at the Maroon Athletic Center, Montana Tech, the Mother Lode Theater, the Butte Plaza Mall and other locations.

Babb also said he and other businesses will help find jobs for the Copper King employees left unemployed by the closure.

"This community will step up and make sure these people are taken care of," Babb said.

The chief executive acknowledged that Butte has lost other businesses this year, including the Acoma and the Gold Rush restaurant. However, he said the Mining City has had new businesses crop up, such as The Montana Club on Harrison Avenue.

John Emeigh may be reached at erin.nicholes@lee.net

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To see more of The Montana Standard, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.mtstandard.com.

Copyright (c) 2008, The Montana Standard, Butte

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