CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The West Virginia Parkways Authority is set to contact developers this week to begin the process of building a hotel next to Tamarack in Beckley.
The hotel could open in time for the 2013 Boy Scout National Jamboree at Fayette County's Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve.
It's all part of a broader plan to develop the 82 acres surrounding the arts and crafts center in hopes of finally getting the $30 million facility to turn a profit.
"One of our goals is to increase visitation and usage of the Tamarack facility and the conference center, and in turn increase the profitability of Tamarack and try to get that whole operation up there revenue neutral at least," said Greg Barr, general manager of the Parkways Authority.
Tamarack has been unable to turn a profit since it opened in 1997.
The authority has been providing between $1 million and $1.2 million to Tamarack each year to keep it afloat. That money comes from a portion of the revenues collected at the rest stops and service stations along the Turnpike.
In 2009, then-Gov. Joe Manchin proposed shoring up the artisan center's finances by allowing amenities like a hotel, shopping center or restaurants to either buy or lease the 82 undeveloped acres around Tamarack to help pull in traffic.
Unfortunately, that proposal came during the height of a recession and real estate market crash, so the idea went nowhere at the time.
But after construction began on the Boy Scouts' Adventure Camp in Fayette County ahead of the 2013 jamboree, the Parkways Authority began receiving unsolicited bids from developers looking to put a hotel on the property.
To make sure the area was developed properly, the authority contracted with Virginia-based consulting firm Land Planning Associates last year to survey the local market and draw up a plan for the best use for their property.
Authority board members wanted to make sure any development would maximize use of Tamarack, boosting revenues for the center.
The consulting firm told the authority in October that hotels would be a viable option even before the completion of the Boy Scout camp, as occupancy rates at existing hotels in the Beckley area already are much higher than average in other hotel markets.
Consultants said the 82 acres could hold two hotels, with a combined capacity of at least 195 rooms. One hotel would be connected directly to Tamarack.