Park City politicians, developers monitor the sale of Deer Valley | ParkRecord.com

Park City politicians, developers monitor the sale of Deer Valley

Impact of deal will stretch through projects and the Marsac Building

by Jay Hamburger
THE PARK RECORD

The sale of Deer Valley Resort, planned to be finalized by the start of the ski season, would almost certainly have broad impacts in the Park City area, from the halls of the Marsac Building, to Main Street and to the desks of planning and development firms.

Deer Valley on Monday announced it will be acquired by a ski-industry startup with holdings that include 12 mountain resorts spread throughout North America like Squaw Valley in California, Steamboat Ski & Resort in Colorado and Stratton Mountain Resort, which is in Vermont.

The planned sale of Deer Valley was announced amid the City Hall political season. The mayor's office and two Park City Council seats are on the ballot. The candidates were expected to address the future of the resort industry's relationship with the community even before the deal for Deer Valley. It seems likely the resort industry will be emphasized even more heavily as the fall campaign starts in earnest. The Deer Valley acquisition will follow three years after the sale of Park City Mountain Resort to Colorado-based Vail Resorts. There are some that remain uneasy with Vail Resorts' ownership even as others are pleased with strong business in the community since the sale.

Dana Williams, who served three terms as the mayor ending in early 2014, is competing against City Councilor Andy Beerman for the city's highest office. The two advanced out of an August primary held in the weeks before the Monday announcement.

Williams called Deer Valley a "homegrown resort" and the "greatest corporate partner in the history of the city." He noted that many of Deer Valley's staffers were already living in the Park City area when they were hired.

"I'm just hopeful as the new company takes over, they understand the importance of the local community and respect it," Williams said, adding, "I am hoping they understand the relationship Deer Valley had with both local government and the community as a whole . . . I think it's been a great relationship."

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He hopes the initial period of the startup's ownership of Deer Valley does not mirror the early period of Vail Resorts' control of PCMR, which included a dispute between the Colorado firm and the community about the company's attempt to trademark the name 'Park City' as it applies to a mountain resort. Williams said Vail Resorts initially saw Park City as a place that could be "rubber stamped" like other places where the firm operates.

Beerman said he was not surprised by the deal for Deer Valley, saying mountain resorts need to band to ensure there is "collective strength to thrive."

"I can't say it's completely out of the blue . . . It seems like a good fit for this particular group," Beerman said.

He said he hopes a new owner retains the management team and employees, which is expected. Beerman also wants the Deer Valley operations to remain similar to as they are now.

He said Vail Resorts' integration into the community has been "challenging" and more needs to be learned about the firm that plans to acquire Deer Valley. The community is "struggling to adjust" to the rapid changes in Park City, he said.

"What we know is the relationship could change. We need to meet with them and assess it," Beerman said, adding, "If it assures stability, that's a good thing. If it brings a more corporate nature to town, that's a threat to our authenticity."

The development industry is also closely following the moves at Deer Valley. There are several large projects with ties to Deer Valley that will need to discuss matters with a new resort owner. East West Partners Utah is developing the One Empire Pass project at Deer Valley. KSL Capital Partners, LLC, a party to the planned acquisition of the resort, is a partner in One Empire Pass.

Bill Fiveash, the managing partner of East West Partners Utah, said the firm is thrilled with the agreement. He said the sale will give buyers in the project confidence.

"As we get built out, it gives people one more reason they want to be an owner," he said.

Another figure with ties to a project linked to Deer Valley, Bob Theobald, said he does not expect changes. Theobald is the listing agent for the Mayflower acreage that stretches between the Jordanelle Reservoir and the upper reaches of Deer Valley.

"It's good for Deer Valley, it's good for Mayflower," Theobald said.

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