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New hospital site attracts hotelier

OLIVIA — A $24 million project to build a new RC Hospital and Clinics facility on the eastern edge of Olivia along U.S. Highway 212 has caught the attention of lots of motorists, and a company with an interest in locating near it.

AmericInn is exploring the possibility of developing a locally franchised hotel in Olivia, preferably on a site near the Renville County-owned hospital facility now under construction, according to Dan Coughlin, Olivia city administrator, and Susie Lothert, economic development director for the city.

They asked the Renville County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday to consider the possibility of making available some of the county-owned property adjacent to the hospital construction site for a possible hotel project. The county and hospital acquired about

43 acres of land on the south side of U.S. Highway 212 for the medical center campus.

AmericInn initially contacted the city of Olivia to express interest in developing a hotel. “They are excited (about Olivia) for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the hospital,’’ Coughlin told the commissioners. The company also cited projected growth in the community and the proposal to develop a Victory Center to tell the story of the community’s role in seed production.

The Olivia Economic Development Authority is sponsoring a feasibility study to determine the market for a lodging facility. It will identify the market potential and number of rooms that would be appropriate.

AmericInn is interested in finding local investors to erect a locally owned franchise, but also indicated an interest in tapping a regional pool of investors if local interest is not found, according to information provided the commissioners on Tuesday.

The commissioners at their next meeting will consider formal action on whether to make county-owned land available. Coughlin said the hospital is open to the idea of selling a portion of the newly acquired property for the project. The commissioners voiced no objections during the discussions.

A new hotel would likely occupy a three-acre site, according to Lothert. The proposed site would be visible from U.S. Highway 212, but a block removed.

She and Coughlin are optimistic that a feasibility study will identify a market for additional lodging in the community. They noted that the occupancy rate at the 32-room Sheep Shedde is high. Informal surveys of guests at conferences and other events in Olivia that attract overnight visitors indicate that many are obtaining lodging in Willmar or at Jackpot Junction near Morton.

They also pointed out that the development of additional lodging in the community could spare the need to open the National Guard Armory to host travelers stranded during winter storms.

If the feasibility study supports a project, Coughlin said AmericInn has indicated it would like to have a hotel open next summer.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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