|By Story Jan Falstad, Billings Gazette,
Mont.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
June 17, 2012--Six years after hotel construction began at Zoo Drive on the West End of Billings, the Big Horn Resort is expanding to attract more conventiongoers.
The resort off Interstate 90, best known for building the city's first indoor water park, is expanding its convention center by 57 percent and adding an outdoor wedding park.
"Now we will have the capacity to host much larger conferences," said Jake Brosovich, whose family owns the resort. "And people like the fact they can bring in their own catering."
By keeping their kitchen and catering staff on a smaller scale, Brosovich said Big Horn can keep prices lower.
Manager Ginny Hart said she's dreamed of a wedding chapel and larger convention center for years.
"Everything the city has is dated and old. People are looking for something that is new and a break from the other properties that say you have to
use our caterer," Hart said.
Big Horn's staff can cater events, but that won't be a requirement to book space, she said.
The expansion will give the resort nearly 14,000-square-feet of convention room and allow Big Horn to accommodate 500 people, instead of 300, at a time.
"We're looking to make Big Horn a place where you can come, stay, dine, recreate and hold your conference and not have to leave for three or four days," Brosovich said.
The oil boom should boost business as well, he said. "If you talk to people, they say Billings is seeing a lot of the overflow from the activity in North Dakota."
Jake Brosovich also runs Yellowstone Basin Construction and owns Ciao Mambo restaurant in downtown Billings with other partners, including his older brother, Billings developer Matt Brosovich.
Hardy Construction will break ground at the Big Horn Resort as soon as the building permit is issued and complete the project about November. The cost of the expansion was not revealed.
A 6-to-8-foot rock berm will shelter the wedding patio, which includes landscaping and a pond, from nearby Interstate 90.
The Billings Hotel and Convention Center south of Interstate 90 off the King Avenue West exit will still be the city's convention king. The convention center, which opened in the early 1970s, can feed up to 900 people for a sit-down dinner or handle standing crowds of 1,400.
"But we're definitely going to give them a run for their money," Brosovich said.
Billings offers 44,000 hotel and motel beds and half a dozen convention centers.
Convention business tapered off during the economic crash that started in 2008, Hart said, but it is coming back.
The move toward canceling business meetings in favor of video conferencing didn't really catch on, Brosovich said.
"There's a world of difference between seeing something on TV and seeing someone in person," he said. "Like in politics, they always try to make people seem taller or something. The many ways of manipulating things on a video conference is vast."
The Brosovich brothers and their sister, Brittainy Doucette, and her husband, Jay Doucette, of Metro Realtors, all work in the family's various development projects, including Big Horn Resort and Rimrock Inn and the neighboring Rock Pile on North 27th Street. Both properties, now owned by the siblings' mother, Carol Brosovich, are undergoing major renovations.
The Billings Chamber of Commerce tracks some of the convention business that comes to Billings through its Convention and Visitors Bureau. By next year, the CVB will try to track all of the convention business in town. Fourteen recent conventions booked through CVB include 75 room nights for the Jewish Youth Tour on the smaller side and up to 2,400 room nights for the Montana Conference of Education Leadership through 2015.
The CBV just booked the national Amateur Athletics Union Wrestling Tournament for June 2013, which should bring 1,000 people to Billings.
(c)2012 the Billings Gazette (Billings, Mont.)
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