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Foundation adds new lodging and Broadway in the Badlands

The Elkhorn Quarters is the newest construction project in Medora--designed to enhance the lodging experience for guests and employees. Sponsored by the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation, the Elkhorn Quarters will replace the Bunkhouse Motel o...

The site of the new Elkhorn Quarters is pictured on March 20, 2018. Sydney Mook / Forum News Service
The site of the new Elkhorn Quarters is pictured on March 20, 2018. (Sydney Mook / The Dickinson Press)

The Elkhorn Quarters is the newest construction project in Medora-designed to enhance the lodging experience for guests and employees.

Sponsored by the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation, the Elkhorn Quarters will replace the Bunkhouse Motel on the southside of Medora.

The Elkhorn Quarters consists of 18 buildings with 364 total rooms- 201 employee rooms and 163 guest rooms.

"If the weather continues to cooperate, we feel we're on schedule," said Randy Hatzenbuhler, Foundation president. "We're hoping to move seasonal employees into some of the units by June 1. More importantly, the guest rooms will be the same prices as the Bunkhouse-we thought it was important that we provide a value option for people."

Twenty-four units have been converted for families. By taking out a wall, one side features a queen bed, and the other side has two bunk beds and a single, he said.

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Instead of a building new facility for $20 million, the Foundation was able to acquire and move in this facility for $6 million, said Justin Fisk, marketing and communications director.

"Teddy Roosevelt would be proud because we are recycling workforce housing facility and turning it into unique tiny house-style lodging for guests and staff. The modular construction is set on concrete foundations with much better things like sound-proofing. It's like a new building except its prefab and fits together like a puzzle set to go into the next quarter century."

The Elkhorn Quarters completes the Lifeskills campus. It started with construction of volunteer housing-the Spirit of Work Lodge. The Life Skills Center is the employees' gathering place for dining, socializing, spiritual life, fitness, sales training and the administrative offices.

"It's really the Elkhorn Quarters that finishes what is a win-win with student seasonal housing, a life skills center and affordable lodging for families," Fisk said.

Burning Hills improvements

The Foundation launched its Burning Hills Theater seat sponsorship campaign late last summer.

"After 25 years, we have to replace the lower seating," Fisk said. "We will honor those who helped build the sponsoring seats in 1992. Today, you can sponsor a seat and continue to make the Burning Hills amphitheater a world-class facility. It's continuing a tradition of some 50 years ago when Harold Schafer acquired the theater. We're replacing seats for the next generation to see the show and experience a family tradition in North Dakota."

Another goal is to create an inclined elevator.

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"To make sure the Burning Hills Amphitheater remains a world-class facility, we need to do a better job for mobility-impaired guests," Fisk continued. "We get the job done now, but we need to be better. We are working on a solution that moves people, who need a little bit of help, up and down the hill in a more stable, safe way. We'll still have the escalator and ramp, but somewhere near the escalator we'll have a diagonal-moving elevator."

The elevator was described as a platform with an open-air gate that moves up and down the hill, 10 individuals at a time.

"The other really cool thing is it visually will give folks the same entry experience," he said.

Completion is estimated at two to seven years, depending on funding.

Foundation mission

The Foundation's mission is to preserve the experience of the Badlands, the historic character of Medora and the values and heritage of Theodore Roosevelt and Harold Schafer.

"We really take seriously our vision statement to connect people to historic Medora for a positive, life-changing experience," Hatzenbuhler said. "My job, I think, is to help the team of people I work with identify more ways to do that-how do we make that happen for people who visit Medora."

He referenced the Medora Gospel Brunch and the traveling Magical Medora Christmas show as perfect examples.

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"More people are excited to come back more often or to stay longer-we will have five quality shows downtown this summer. We've created a show that's debuting this summer, 'Wonderful Work.' It's a one-man show about Harold Schafer."

Two Burning Hills Singers have created a show for kids, "Carl and Greta's Cowboy Singalong."

"The other one that's new is a specialty act-'Todd Oliver and his talking dog, Irving,'" Hatzenbuhler said. "He's been all over the country, and he'll be performing nine shows a week in the Old Town Hall. There's a lot going on. Really, it follows our vision of five years ago to create more for people who want to stay more than one night."

Balance

The Foundation balances its development with the rustic image of historic Medora.
"There's two tests we ask ourselves- can we add to the community without taking anything away-we don't want to spoil the charm of Medora," Hatzenbuhler said. "We're not perfect but we get it right more times than not. Secondly, we have three interlocking circles- history, education and entertainment- hopefully all three are present in Medora."

"In the same vein, our last project hopefully is not a long ways down the line," he said. "We have a missing middle-how do we address teenagers to the 28-year-olds. We partner with the Maah-Daah-Hey Trail. We have a Family Fun Center across the river-people liked it but very few went out there. We plan to create a Family Adventure Play Park-walking trails, a climbing wall, mini golf, maybe a zip line."

The Foundation is looking for partners to develop the vision of the family center.

"There's no specific timeline-I would hope it's within one to three years," he said.

Hatzenbuhler spoke about his vision for Medora, with references in a president's letter for the Rough Riders Review:

He said last summer's experiences with their grandchildren, Reese and Dawson, was an epiphany of sorts. He compared how his 5-year-old granddaughter, Reese, was the same age as his daughter when he first came to work at Medora.

After attending the musical with his family, he wrote, "I know exactly why I am working and I know that I won't ever personally see what I am working for- I want to do everything I am able to make sure Reese will have the same experience we had tonight. That is: Someday she will enjoy taking her grandchildren to Medora and she will see the same joy in their eyes as we see in her's. I am all in for Reese."

Broadway in the Badlands

Five years ago, the Foundation made a commitment to provide more entertainment for downtown Medora. Titled Broadway in the Badlands, audiences are familiar with the first two:

• The Medora Gospel Brunch.

• "A Theodore Roosevelt Salute to Medora."

The next three are new:

• "Wonderful Work-The Harold Schafer Story."

• "Todd Oliver and his talking dog, Irving."

• "Carl and Greta's Cowboy Singalong." It's an old-fashioned, back-porch singalong featuring little cowboys and cowgirls.

...

Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation President Randy Hatzenbuhler is shown with his granddaughter, Reese in the Burning Hills Amphitheater last summer. (Submitted Photo)
Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation President Randy Hatzenbuhler is shown with his granddaughter, Reese in the Burning Hills Amphitheater last summer. (Submitted Photo)

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