Weiser is angling to attract what could be the largest hotel along the 387-mile stretch of U.S. 95 between Riggins and Winnemucca.
City leaders have applied for a $10,000 USDA rural development grant that would pay for a feasibility report on the project. Patrick Nauman, co-chairman of the Weiser Economic Development Task Force, said the city is looking at a 40-room motel to increase accommodation options for the city’s 300-person convention center and for regional outdoor recreation.
Nauman said a couple of hotel developers have shown interest in building in Weiser, but want the feasibility report before committing. Nauman said he has someone lined up to prepare a report as soon as grant money arrives.
“Weiser would be ripe for a 40-unit motel built in a way that additions could be easy to add,” Nauman said. “Within the last eight months, I’ve been in contact with a couple hotel companies that are interested to move into the market. We need a newer, nicer hotel.”
Nauman said a new motel would be a national brand rather than the independent motels now in Weiser. He did not name potential brands or hotel development companies.
Weiser lies on U.S. 95, a north-south highway that starts near Idaho’s Canadian border and passes through the southeastern corner of Oregon through Nevada, California, and Arizona. Weiser has a population of just 5,300, and the area around it is sparsely populated, with few motels on U.S. 95. The Oregon city of Ontario, with a population of more than 11,000 and some large chain motels, is 17 miles to the south.
“We’re just far enough from Ontario that (Weiser) would be more convenient than Ontario (for outdoor recreationists),” said Nauman, co-owner of Weiser Classic Candy and chairman of the Snake River Valley Economic Development Alliance.
Weiser hosts the National Oldtime Fiddlers’ Contest. Nauman describes Weiser as at “the edge of a sportsman’s paradise, gateway to Hells Canyon and outside cusp of offering wine tours” to the Sunnyslope wineries.
“We have wineries looking at Weiser for expansion,” he said.
Nauman’s goal is to have a feasibility study completed by the end of summer.
“We’re probably 12 to 18 months away from potentially beginning construction if all the dominos fall in place,” he said.
Weiser has three motels with a combined 44 rooms: the State Street Motel with 13 rooms, the Colonial Motel with 23 rooms and the Indianhead Motel with eight rooms.
“They did this 16 years ago,” Colonial Motel owner Kerry Kendall said of a prior feasibility report. “The three (motel owners) then said: ‘Why don’t you worry about selling the three motels you have?’”
Kendall said things haven’t changed much in 16 years to warrant the addition of a 40-room motel. Colonial specializes in weekly rentals, especially to railroad crews.
“We’re busy in summer and totally dead in winter,” Kendall said.
Another Weiser motel employee said the town’s motels are only full the third week in June for the fiddle festival.
Weiser Mayor Diana Thomas said the feasibility study 16 years ago focused on Weiser as a potential destination similar to McCall. Today, local economic development boosters position Weiser as a “spot in between” and they encourage travelers to stop there as they travel U.S. 95.
“(A new motel) is something, because of where we are located, that could be a business that works out well,” Thomas said. “Once you get beyond us, until you get to New Meadows (76 miles to the northeast on U.S. 95), there isn’t much. It might be a business that fills a gap.”
Idaho has seen a torrent of hotel construction since 2015, with 40 hotels and motels built, under construction or planned.