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NOLS 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 year.

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 as NOLS.

"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 employers."

"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 graduates worldwide.

For more information about WMI, readers can visit their web site.


Press Contact:
Tom Reed
National Outdoor Leadership School
(307) 332-1299
email:tom_reed@nols.edu

 
 
 

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