Bronco Billy’s Mega Hotel Expansion Clears Final Regulatory Hurdle

Chamonix Resort Right on Schedule for Dec. 26 Opening

Rick Langenberg

The stage is now set for a late Dec. opening of Cripple Creek’s most ambitious hotel/casino resorts ever proposed as the nine-story Chamonix project (a major expansion proposed by Bronco Billy’s) cleared their final regulatory hurdle last week.

With no concerns raised by elected leaders or residents, the Cripple Creek City Council on Nov 1 unanimously approved the development’s detailed signage and lighting plans and followed in line with the historic preservation commission. In an earlier meeting, the commission recommended a certificate of appropriateness for the Chamonix signage and lighting and other final design bids.

This approval deals with external lights on the main hotel building and a variety of supplemental signage, highlighting the valet parking and the resort’s restaurant, and other special features of the $100-million-plus development.

Oddly enough, the okay of a spree of signage/lighting for the Chamonix resort coincided with the council’s final approval of new sign regulations, which set more defined rules regarding electronic signage, banners and attention-getting devices. The council, with a few changes, okayed the second and final reading of an amended sign ordinance.

None of Billy’s new sign and lighting plans, however, will require any variances or special exemptions from the revised code.

“We are really proud and excited about it (the final lighting and signage plans), said Cliff Kortman, president of the Texas-based CKOR International, which is heading the architectural and construction phases of the project. Kortman does considerable work with Full House Resorts, the owner of Bronco Billy’s.

Kortman stated that the signage, described in a city staff report as a “reverse back-channel halo lighting” approach, is designed to accentuate the architectural elements of the facility, with lighting that is more subtle. “It is not going to be glowing in your face,” said Kortman. At the same time, he stressed that certain elements of the project, such as a special entryway with the planting of an array of new trees, plants and landscaping features, could help the hotel become a showcase for the community. Some of the planned specialty lights will highlight this area.

The staff also recommended approval of the Chamonix plans, citing the fact that their signage and lighting and design features are aimed at making the project blend in with the historic look of Cripple Creek, while not aiming at imitating a particular old structure. In fact, due to the fact that Cripple Creek is a designated historic district, special guidelines had to be followed that meet the Secretary of Interior rules, according to planner and historic preservation coordinator Renee Mueller.

But for the most part, the Chamonix proponents didn’t have to twist any arms in convincing the staff and council of the merits of their final sign and lighting displays. This is often a touchy subject with new casino endeavors, with certain sign bids inflaming tempers years ago, shortly after Cripple Creek took a gamble with limited stakes gaming.

“It is a real classy look,” said Cripple Creek City Administrator Frank Salvato, who said he has seen this style of back-channel halo lighting before in his previous stints as a city manager with certain communities.

Reaching the Construction End Zone

“There is a lot of excitement happening,” said Baxter Lee, general manager of Bronco Billy’s.

He noted that the end zone is now in reach after several years of planning and construction work on the Chamonix resort.

Following last week’s meeting, Lee was bullishly optimistic that the project would meet the goal of opening all of its 300-plus rooms by Dec. 26, along with the restaurant, called 980 Prime (By Barry Dakake).  He said the resort’s spa, one of its special four-star features, won’t open until early next year.

According to Lee, the project doesn’t require any more regulatory steps. The project, though, still must obtain temporary occupancy permits and get the okay of certain agencies, such as the fire department. Also, some of the parking areas still need to get paved, according to Salvato.

Both Lee and Kortman say the green light is flashing for a Dec. 26 opening. “All of our rooms will be opening,” said Lee.

During an earlier ceremony last year in which a peak preview was given to community leaders, the project developers considered opening the project in phases.

For months, the Bronco Billys’ expansion project has become the talk of the town, and often became a frequent subject of interest among tourists and gamblers.

Some have complained about the height of the development, and question if certain side deals were made along the way.

But officials say all approval requirements were met,and concede that some the concerns dealt with changes to the project during a time when the city didn’t have in-person council meetings.  At one point during the pandemic, Full House slammed the brakes on the entire project. But a number of months later, following the approval by Colorado voters of no-limit gambling in the three mountain communities, the project rebounded with a much bigger pursuit; and more notably, a bid to do all aspects of the development, the parking garage and the hotel, at one time.

This accentuated the construction of the development to a new level.

In other development action last week, the council approved the release of $31,000 to complete the infrastructure on the pocket park, next to city hall.