plans $8 million expansion
Lander, Wyo. - May 3, 1999 -- Plans are
underway to expand the international headquarters
of the National Outdoor Leadership School
in downtown Lander with a large, multi-phased
office and green space construction project.
The project which will be built over several
years, will cost more than $8 million and
boast a finished size of 40,000 square feet.
NOLS courses, which teach wilderness skills
and leadership, are extremely popular and
the school is booming, said John Gans, NOLS
executive director. The expansion will give
the non-profit elbow room for several years.
The expansion was recently boosted by the
donation of three city lots to the school
by Wyoming Rep. Dr. Harry Tipton and his
wife, Alex. New offices will be built on
the donated land starting in 2001. Currently,
NOLS owns two buildings in the immediate
vicinity, the historic Noble Hotel on Lander's
Main Street, and the Kennedy Building at
188 North Third St. These buildings will
be incorporated into the expansion project.
The school has been operating in Lander since
its inception in 1965.
"With our recent acquisition of the
Wilderness Medicine Institute and our continued
growth, this project emphasizes our commitment
to the community of Lander and to downtown
Lander," said Gans. NOLS enrollment
has grown by 52 percent since 1989 and the
school projects record enrollment again this
Under the plan, the Noble Hotel, a Lander
landmark, will also see several upgrades
and improvements, said Mark Cole, a NOLS
director who has been spearheading the logistics
of the project planning. Cole noted that
the Tiptons have been long-time supporters
of the school, with annual donations to the
student scholarship program.
Cole added that a citizens committee comprised
of state Sen. Cale Case, Linda Hewitt and
Dave Raynolds was instrumental in giving
the school feedback for the project.
Hewitt, the community resource coordinator
for Lander, was particularly helpful in securing
a $16,000 Wyoming Business Council grant
so the school could study the feasibility
of expansion. She noted the importance of
retaining a long-time Lander employer such
"NOLS puts us on the map," said
Hewitt. "It makes Lander world renowned.
There's ambiance downtown because of NOLS.
There's a real value for the city and all
the retailers with the students and staff
in the downtown area. My preference was to
keep NOLS in this downtown setting and it
thrilled me to have the opportunity to create
some jobs with one of our largest existing
"This is another example where a small
investment at the right time assisted a major
company in Wyoming to be able to move forward
on a decision which now will benefit the
entire region," added John Reardon,
CEO of the Wyoming Business Council. "The
Wyoming Business Council appreciated the
opportunity to work with NOLS on surveying
the alumni and student base on the location
of the future expansion and consolidation.
It was a pleasure for the WBC to work with
a company with such a worldwide reputation."
The school, which has felt the need for
expansion of headquarters facilities for
some time, initially looked at several options
in and around Lander, said Cole.
"We looked at nearly 40 different properties,
from the mouth of Sinks Canyon all the way
to downtown Lander," said Cole. "We
asked our alumni and business community members
where they felt we should be and they very
loudly said downtown Lander. Moreover, it
was very important to us for our students
to experience the Lander community when they
come here to take a course."
Reaction from NOLS staff has been very positive.
Cheryl Jones, a Lander native who has worked
at the school for more than a decade, and
whose two daughters are also employees at
NOLS, said that she's happy about the plans.
"I'm excited to see how NOLS and Lander
have changed over the years," she said. "It
makes me proud to know that NOLS is so committed
to this community and to staying in and improving
a historic building like the Noble Hotel."
Gans noted that the school wants to set
an example for responsible development with
a balance of parking, office space and green
space. Currently, the school is working with
the City of Lander to explore several options
for parking. Gans noted that Lander Mayor
Gerald Heckart has been especially helpful
in this realm.
NOLS plans to begin building by 2001, with
completion slated in a number of phases.
The final phase could be completed in 2004.
NOLS employs about 390 employees in Wyoming,
and spends approximately 61 percent of its
$16 million budget in the state each year.
Nearly 1,100 students attend courses based
in Lander each year. Founded in Lander in
1965 by mountaineer and educator Paul Petzoldt
as a private non-profit school, NOLS operates
wilderness field expeditions teaching outdoor
skills and leadership. The school runs 14
to 95-day courses from eight branches: Rocky
Mountain, Pacific Northwest, Southwest, Alaska,
Yukon, Mexico, Patagonia (Chile), and . NOLS alumni total more than 45,000
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