Golf course construction could begin in ’08 |

Golf course construction could begin in ’08

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

The Summit County Commission has approved a new plan for a golf course at The Canyons but with the resort’s parent company, American Skiing Co., dissolving, financing for the roughly $12 million project must be secured.

Still, in a public hearing at the Sheldon Richins Building Wednesday, executives at The Canyons said the company will fulfill its obligations to build an 18-hole course regardless of who operates the resort in the future.

"The next step is to dust off the financing," said Dave Hirasawa, American Skiing Company’s director of financial analysis and investor relations.

Some land owned by Wolf Mountain and ASC was left out of the new golf plan "to push the course forward," explained Tim Vetter, a vice president at The Canyons.

Last year, however, Wolf Mountain Resorts Managing Partner Kenny Griswold provided the land for the golf course he was required to by the development agreement, Wolf Mountain officials say, adding that Griswold gave the most property for the project.

"No one is more excited for a golf course at The Canyons than Wolf Mountain," Griswold said. "After this much time we have very high expectations for a spectacular course."

But American Skiing Company doesn’t have enough money to build a high-quality golf course, said Griswold, who leases land for ski terrain at The Canyons to American Skiing Co.

No lender in their "right mind" would loan money for the course while American Skiing is in financial upheaval, he added.

"Clearly, they don’t care what it looks like and they won’t be here," Griswold said about a golf course plan he calls "sub-standard." "They said ASC would always be here, they misrepresented this Shame on ASC for misrepresenting their financial strength."

Having already announced plans to sell seven of its eight resorts, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission document filed by American Skiing Co. last week, The Canyons could also go on the block.

"We intend to sell The Canyons pursuant to our plan of dissolution. The timing of such sale is uncertain at this time," the SEC filing states.

Still, officials at the resort say it isn’t for sale rather, ownership of The Canyons will shift from common shareholders to Oak Hill Capital Partners, a Texas equity firm that owns the majority of American Skiing Co.’s stock.

"With regard to the (golf course) financing, not a lot has changed," said JoAnne Nadalin, director of The Canyons Resort Village Management Association, a group overseeing course development at the resort.

She spoke to the County Commission in a public hearing Wednesday at the Sheldon Richins Building where commissioners voted unanimously to move forward with the new plan.

Roughly 25 landowners near The Canyons came together several years ago to form the resort’s so-called Specially Planned Area, or SPA. To move The Canyons from a winter destination to a four-season resort, the development agreement required the property owners cooperate to provide land or other concessions for a golf course.

Most property at The Canyons, which is leased to American Skiing Company, is owned by Griswold, who insists the plan for golf approved by commissioners this week would make The Canyons the "laughingstock" in Summit County’s golf community. It’s unheard of to have four par 3 holes on the back nine of a resort-style course, he said.

But Tim Vetter, a vice president at The Canyons, disagreed, countering that "this is a pretty spectacular place."

"I think it’s something that everybody can be proud of," he said.

"We’ve all been working very hard to get the golf moving at The Canyons," Dave Fishlock, general manager of Westgate Resorts, told the Summit County Commission.

Dick Frost, who owns land at The Canyons, claimed Wolf Mountain officials have tried to "deter the golf."

"We have done our share," Frost said about commitments fulfilled by the owners of the Frostwood subdivision at The Canyons. "[Frostwood owners] invested millions and millions of dollars."

Meanwhile, the approval this week means construction of the golf course could begin in 2008 and be completed within two years.

"The idea was always for The Canyons to function as a year-round resort," Summit County Commissioner Bob Richer said, adding that county officials "have bent over backwards to try to be fair and equitable for all of the parties involved Clearly, here, there are different versions of reality."