Ruby's Inn, the resort complex launched in 1919 as a "Tourist Rest" for visitors to what is now Bryce Canyon National Park, is well into a $7 million expansion that will add 70,000 square feet of new facilities to the complex, located a mile north of the park entrance on U-63.

Named for its founder, Reuben "Ruby" Syrett, the inn's expansion will add a conference center, 55 guest rooms, a fast-food restaurant and retail store space, said Jean Seiler, marketing director.Seiler said the new Bryce Canyon Conference Center will allow Ruby's to handle a single meeting of 350 to 400 guests or several smaller groups.

"We've always handled small conventions and local meetings, but part of our goal is to expand our winter business and make it a destination retreat in which we will bid for out-of-state groups, not just Utah," said Seiler.

He said the 55 new rooms will be upscale suites with whirlpool tubs in each. The complex also will include a large atrium with indoor swimming pool, exercise facility and spa.

The new guest rooms will bring Ruby's total to 368 operating under the Best Western banner. The resort currently has a 250-guest steak house and full-service buffet restaurant, which is being refurbished as part of the improvements.

Also being expanded is Ruby's retail store, which offers groceries, automotive supplies, souvenirs and curios. The renovation will add a Western fine arts gallery featuring the work of local painters and sculptors as well as Indian arts and crafts.

The builders, Pendleton Construction of Parowan, expect to have the guest rooms completed and open by the end of April, the retail space by early May and the conference center by early summer.

Ruby's also offers a campground with space for more than 200 recreational vehicles, with sewer, water, electrical power, showers and a laundry.

In the summer, Ruby's provides guests with a variety of activities, including rodeos six nights a week, covered wagon cookouts and outlaw rides on the old trail said to have been frequented by Butch Cassidy and the Sun-dance Kid.

Seiler said visitors are surprised to learn that Ruby's is the largest hostelry in Utah south of Provo. Panguitch is the closest town, but he describes Ruby's as "a city unto itself," noting that it appears on state maps. It is also among the largest employers south of Provo, with a staff that fluctuates between 350 and 400.

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He points out that anyone visiting Bryce must pass by Ruby's.

Seiler is a former Salt Laker who moved to nearby Tropic five years ago and says he and his family couldn't be happier. He quips that the best part of living in Garfield County is that in all of the county's 5,000 square miles, there is not a single stop light "and only one attorney."

Although most visitors are aware only of the inn site, Ruby's is also a large private landholding with some 4,000 acres on which it operates an alfalfa farm and cattle ranch.

Most Utahns who visit Bryce travel to the park by car, but Scenic Airlines, a subsidiary of St. George-based SkyWest, offers Californians and others direct flights from Las Vegas to Bryce Canyon Airport. Air travelers from Salt Lake City must fly Sky-West to Cedar City or St. George and then find ground transportation to the park, about a 11/2-hour drive from Cedar City.

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