By Pat Hill

The Wildwood Casino in Cripple Creek threw a party last week for guests, employees and city officials to celebrate the groundbreaking of the hotel to be built adjacent to the casino.

The Wildwood’s owner, Joseph Canfora, was exuberant about the project. “It’s pretty exciting, a new chapter, not only for us, but for the other casinos,” Canfora said. “I’m rootin’ for ‘em!”

Canfora acknowledged that Triple Crown and Bronco Billy’s casinos have hotels on their schedules. “We wanted to be the first to break ground!” he said.

While there are other lodging establishments in the city, Canfora sees a market for more. With the amenities, the museum, casinos and abundant recreational opportunities, the city has another byproduct. “Everybody I bring up here says how beautiful it is,” Canfora said. “We need the rooms — needed to get the product up here to provide a three-to-four day experience.”

The casino announced earlier this month an elevation survey had determined the Wildwood is the world’s highest at 9,593 feet above sea level.

A $14 million, fully-financed project, the hotel will be built on the site of the current parking lot, with a heated walkway connecting the hotel with the casino. Canfora expects a summer or fall grand opening in 2020. But the groundbreaking took place on the vacant lot behind the casino — the future location of a hotel maintenance facility.

Speaking from the podium, Canfora touted the Wildwood’s staying power in Cripple Creek. “Wildwood has been here for 11 years,” he said.

Canfora praised the city officials for fostering a good working relationship during the project.

The hotel will have 104 rooms, including suites and a rooftop patio. In choosing Colorado Structures Inc. as the general contractor, Canfora emphasized his dedication to hiring Colorado firms for the construction.

In fact, CSI’s project manager is Chris Downs, who was raised in Cripple Creek. “We’ll be good stewards,” Downs said.

There were good feelings all around. “I never thought this day would happen,” said Mayor Bruce Brown. “This project is a good thing for our community; we really need this.”

City administrator Mark Campbell agreed. “This is a much-anticipated project and the first step of many for Cripple Creek,” he said.

After the ceremony, Canfora invited those in attendance for lunch at Woody’s restaurant in the casino.

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