Inner Circle US Acquires Holiday Inn Grand in Billings, Montana; Renovation and Conversion Planned

December 23, 2015

Dec. 23–A Florida-based hotel company has bought the Holiday Inn Grand for $7.85 million on Billings West End and plans to start a multimillion-dollar renovation and conversion to a Radisson hotel.

Stephen Nalley, managing partner of Ormond Beach, Fla.-based Inner Circle US, said Tuesday the company has big plans for the 43,000-square-foot Montana Convention Center, the city’s largest stand-alone convention center.

Nalley said he and his partner, Joe Gillespie, have made several trips to Billings in recent weeks to finalize the sale, and they’ve also met with community leaders about a public-private partnership to manage the convention center. The sale closed at midnight Tuesday.

No detailed plan has emerged, but Nalley says it’s early. Inner Circle is here to stay, and Nalley said he thinks an improved convention center could become a statewide and regional draw for meetings and conferences and boost the Billings tourism economy.

“That’s good for our business, that’s good for the community, good for the state. … We love taking something and making something big,” Nalley said in an interview at the hotel.

It’s unclear how the purchase will affect the Billings Chamber of Commerce’s push for a new $60 million convention center. Chamber President John Brewer said Tuesday he’s traded messages with Gillespie and would like to sit down with the new owners to discuss their plans.

“It’s in a challenging location, but I think with the right ownership group and the right investments, there’s potential,” Brewer said.

He added that obtaining public financing for a center through a bond would be a challenge. The chamber proposal would also rely on some form of taxpayer support.

“They’re a tough sell to the community. It could be hard to get your mind around the overall economic impact when it comes to a convention center” such as restaurant sales and other spending, he said.

Billings Mayor Tom Hanel said he spoke with Gillespie Dec. 14 about the hotel and discussed the “dire need” for improvement to the convention center.

Hanel said Gillespie shared his concerns, and he feels the new ownership is pushing the hotel in the right direction.

“I left our meeting feeling very excited for Billings and for the Holiday Inn. I anticipate and predict positive changes as we discussed,” Hanel wrote in an email to The Gazette.

Inner Circle also closed on the purchase of a Holiday Inn in Cheyenne, Wyo., Tuesday.

Inner Circle was the winning bidder in an online auction of the Holiday Inn Grand held Nov. 5. The previous owner was Rhode Island-based Hotel West II LP, and it was managed by the Procaccianti Group.

The Holiday Inn Grand is the 191st acquired by Gillespie, according to Nalley. The two men formed Inner Circle in 2003, and they specialize in purchasing distressed properties and turning them around.

“We’re not flippers. That’s not the business we’re in. We’re about creating value,” Nalley said.

The hotel has about 105 employees, and Inner Circle officials say they plan to keep them all and possibly add more, depending on demand.

The conversion will mark a return to Billings for the Radisson brand, which is in 990 hotels in 73 countries. Radisson was formerly next door to the Holiday Inn Grand, at the current Billings Hotel.

Renovations will start in January and could take a year, Nalley said. He added that the hotel will remain open during construction.

The seven-story Holiday Inn Grand has 316 rooms and three buildings on a 14-acre site at 5500 Midland Road, just south of the Interstate 90 exit.

The Holiday Inn Grand is the second major hotel in Billings that is planned to undergo a makeover and brand change next year. The owner of the downtown Crowne Plaza are planning a big renovation to become a DoubleTree by Hilton in 2016.

Two other hotels are also under construction in Billings. An extended stay Home2 Suites by Hilton will open next fall on North 27th Street across from Albertsons.

A Comfort Suite is also being built at 4910 Southgate Drive, site of the former Geyser Park Family Fun Center.