By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
Cody is a western town.
Every step through the community reveals a town steeped in western history — including the Chamber of Commerce building modeled after the home of western showman William “Buffalo Bill” Cody.
So a collection of clear geodesic domes poses a stark contrast to the rustic log cabin the rest beside.
The other-worldly “Cody Visitor Center Domes” are the result of efforts by the Park County Travel Council to create attractive public spaces and entice visitors to stay in Cody a little longer.
“We’re always looking for ways to keep people more overnights in Cody-Yellowstone,” said Ryan Hauck, the executive director for the Park County Travel Council (PCTC). “Our goal is to always try to bring people either in shoulder season, or get them to come for multiple nights, or whatever that looks like.”
One way to do that, Hauck said, is to create more evening activities, which encourage visitors to stay more than one night.
The domes that have taken up residence on the Chamber’s property will allow people to gather outside in the evenings and remain sheltered from the elements.
“I kind of envisioned, maybe we have a food truck night once a month, or something like that,” Hauck said. “They honestly work perfectly for food trucks. Also, a lot of destinations do what’s called a restaurant week, in which maybe in a shoulder season we could feature restaurants every day for a week straight.”
The domes also encourage the use of outdoor public spaces, which Hauck said is how the idea for the project came up in the first place.
“I think it was the WCDA (Wyoming Community Development Authority) that has a grant for public spaces that comes out every single year,” he said. “And they ran a study to see what communities really need public spaces, and honestly, Cody came up as one of the top ones in all of Wyoming that really need public spaces.”
“There’s just not a lot of places where people can go to hang out, and enjoy what we have, other than a few places downtown,” he added.
Hauck said the project was funded with federal money from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act or “CARES” and to that end, addressed social distancing concerns.
“This does give another option to enjoy a public space in a COVID friendly way if that’s something that people are actively looking for,” Hauck said. “And people still are actively looking for those options.”
In deciding to utilize the CARES Act money for this project, Hauck said local leaders supported the idea completely.
“These were federal dollars for destinations like us, and everybody else throughout the state, to help us recover,” he said.
A company called HypeDome provided the materials, which Hauck said should withstand all that the Wyoming weather can throw at them, from sub-zero winter temperatures and snow to the state’s ever-present wind.
“Also, we do live in Wyoming, and we have wind here,” he said. “And so, going off memory here, I believe we had to have a structure that could withstand 85-mile-an-hour wind and 150-mile-an-hour gusts up to three seconds. And these can do that.”
Hauck pointed out that these permanent structures are perfect setups for social media posts.
“People are going to be looking for that ‘Instagrammable’ moment, just like they have been for the last few years,” he said. “And they’re going to look awesome. I think it’s going to be something that will help draw people in that way.”
But he pointed out that the project isn’t quite finished yet.
“There are going to be some accessories like cement tables, vases, things like that,” Hauck said.
“Every single one of them will also have rope lights around the base of them, and fairy lights all throughout the top part of the dome.” He continued. “So you know, at dusk and nighttime, they’re going to look pretty phenomenal.”
The chamber asks that users finish up in the domes by 10 p.m., but at this point, there are no locks to keep people out.
Hauck added that there is no plan to ever charge to use the domes.
“Whether it’s locals that want to enjoy the outdoors and stay away from the 60-mile-an hour wind, or it’s tourists looking for that fun Instagrammable moment – or if they just want a fun place where they could stop and read a book or eat a quick lunch before they head into the park. It’s an option, really, for anybody and everybody,” he said.