A new PCMR, movie shoots, art center drama marked 2015 in Park City
December 29, 2015
Park City entered 2015 after an extraordinarily newsworthy 2014 that set the stage for many of the headlines over the past 12 months.
It was clear that a redone Park City Mountain Resort, linking the terrain of PCMR and Canyons Resort, would immediately change the ski industry. And it was expected that the talks about the future of the Kimball Art Center – both the organization and the building – would be notable. But the collapse of a mining-era structure and a yell of ‘Action’ in Park City also marked the year.
The Top 6 news stories in Park City in 2015 follow:
1. Biggest in the U.S.
When Vail Resorts acquired Park City Mountain Resort in 2014, settling a bitter lawsuit centered on the former owner’s lease of much of the terrain, the Colorado firm quickly signaled its intention to create the largest mountain resort in the United States.
It already operated nearby Canyons Resort as part of a long-term agreement, and Vail Resorts saw linking PCMR and Canyons Resort into a single property as something unprecedented in the ski industry.
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Vail Resorts moved quickly. late in the spring, the firm had won permits from planning panels in Park City and Summit County to build a gondola linking the two mountain resorts as well as other upgrades on the slopes. There was little resistance from the Planning Commissions in Park City and the Snyderville Basin. The public generally was supportive as well. The work was priced at $50 million, a staggering sum of money to be spent on upgrades at a single property in one year.
The eight-passenger gondola was the centerpiece. It travels nearly 1 1/2 miles, creating a mountain resort covering 7,300 acres. PCMR is easily the largest in the country.
"It feels great. We’re embarking on, really, transforming the Park City Mountain Resort experience," Blaise Carrig, the president of the mountain division of Vail Resorts, said after the Park City Planning Commission cast its vote in favor of the gondola and other improvements.
Vail Resorts spent the summer and fall progressing on the package of improvements and announcing a new branding. The resort would be marketed simply as Park City rather than as Park City Mountain Resort. It would keep the Canyons Resort logo that is similar to an infinity sign, but it would adopt the color red that PCMR used in its branding. The link was named the Quicksilver Gondola.
As Christmas approached, PCMR opened the gondola in a ceremony on the slopes. Skiers and snowboarders are now able to move from the bottom of Main Street to the Canyons Village off S.R. 224 via a network of 40 lifts and 314 runs.
"We love it. Our team is so excited to show the world what we’ve been able to do this summer. The improvements are just spectacular," Bill Rock, the chief operating officer at PCMR, said at the ceremony.
2. School District’s bell rung
When the Park City School District opened its master-planning process in the fall of 2014, it began with looking at whether the aging Treasure Mountain Junior High remained a viable building to house students. But over the following several months, stretching well into 2015, the scope of the district’s master planning drastically expanded.
The result was a $56 million bond measure the district put on the Election Day ballot, maintaining it was crucial to solve a number of pressing facility needs. The bond included money for several large-scale projects, including: Park City High School expansion and gym remodel; a new fifth- and sixth-grade school at Ecker Hill campus; improvements to McPolin Elementary School, including moving the parking lot; and athletic facilities improvements.
But vocal opposition to the bond quickly mobilized. Detractors said the district had rushed the measure onto the ballot without doing enough research and without exploring less-expensive alternatives. Others claimed the community wasn’t involved enough in the process and that the Board of Education had ignored some of the recommendations of its master-planning committee.
The district vehemently denied those claims and urged voters to pass the bond. With rising enrollment expected, Treasure Mountain Junior High in disrepair, and grade realignment on the horizon, starting the projects as soon as possible was critical, the district argued.
On Election Day, the voters were clear. They rejected the bond measure, with 3,001 votes against (60.69 percent) and 1,944 opting in favor (39.31 percent). In the aftermath, Joe Cronley, one of the leaders of the anti-bond group Citizens for Better Education, told The Park Record that the group’s concerns resonated with voters.
"We presented a good campaign," he said. "I think the school board, their plan and campaign strategies were questionable to a lot of the voters. And I think that affected the outcome."
Since the defeat of the measure, the district has reopened its master-planning process. Board members have expressed hope that they can come up with another plan that garners a near-consensus among the community rather than divide it. The district may put another measure on the ballot in the near future.
"We’re going to use this to really look at what we’re doing and try to make sure that we’re in better alignment with community needs and update our overall strategy and plan," Phil Kaplan, a member of the Board of Education, told The Park Record.
3. An art project
The Kimball Art Center by the time 2015 started had already indicated it planned to leave its longtime location along Main Street. A deal to sell the historic Kimball Art Center property to a developer was announced just a few weeks before New Year’s.
The Kimball Art Center as well as the developer who acquired the property remained busy through much of the year nonetheless. The Kimball Art Center needed to find a new location and the developer had to press ahead with a project at the site. They were both closely watched tasks given the prominence of the historic Kimball Art Center site and the art center’s status as a leading not-for-profit organization.
The developer in the spring was engaged in difficult discussions about the property, eventually losing a critical Park City Planning Commission vote as the panel recommended against a change to City Hall’s detailed development rules to accommodate a proposal at the site. At about the same time the acquisition of the property was finalized, the developer withdrew the contested proposal, which had sought to loosen the height restrictions at the site. Much of the discussion took place in the spring and, toward the end of the year, there appears to be a renewed effort to redevelop the site. The Kimball Art Center, meanwhile, was finalizing plans to move out.
"This sale presents the opportunity to build an entirely new facility that is truly customized to best fit the needs of our community, and is expected to provide bigger exhibit spaces, additional educational and interactive offerings, improved parking access, and more," a statement released by the Kimball Art Center said after the deal was completed.
The Kimball Art Center later moved into temporary quarters in a building on Kearns Boulevard, securing a two-year lease with a one-year option in an agreement with a partnership with significant land holdings in Bonanza Park. It is expected to remain the location until the Kimball Art Center leadership makes a decision about the long-term future of the organization’s home. The Kearns Boulevard property was transformed into gallery space, classrooms and administrative square footage. The temporary space debuted in October.
4. The three winners
As Park City’s political season started in the middle of the year, there were early indications Campaign 2015 would not be a barnburner. There was little talk about potential candidates in the weeks before the campaign formally started and it was not clear whether there would be an overriding issue like there was in past election years.
In June, when the campaign started with the opening of the window when candidates must file paperwork at City Hall, there was a burst of interest. Enough people filed to force a primary. But two of the people who launched campaigns ended their bids for elected office within days. One of them, Josh Hobson, learned he lived just outside the Park City limits, making him ineligible to seek elected office in the city. Another one, Mark Blue, said he withdrew as a result of unexpected issues involving his family.
The primary election was canceled, and the six remaining candidates headed into the fall bringing a range of backgrounds and issues to the campaign. Only one out of three incumbents — Andy Beerman — sought re-election, meaning that two of the winners would be newcomers to the City Council. The others on the ballot were Becca Gerber, Hope Melville, Rory Murphy, Dan Portwood and Nann Worel. All except Portwood had City Hall experience of some sort.
The campaign was a mild-mannered affair that lacked a singular crucial issue, such as the economy or a polarizing development proposal, to spur voter interest. A Park City School District ballot measure sought to fund a wide range of construction projects overshadowed the City Council campaign.
The City Council candidates touched on issues like environmentalism, growth, the economy and traffic. The field agreed on many of the issues, at some points making it difficult to discern the differences between the candidates.
Beerman, the first-place finisher on Election Day, easily won a second term on the City Council. Worel and Gerber captured the other two City Council seats. A swearing-in ceremony is planned in early January.
"For me, it felt like a vote of confidence that Park City residents agreed with the messaging I’m putting out there," Beerman said about his victory shortly after the election, adding, "It’s a vote of confidence for the Council’s priorities."
5. A historic collapse
Early on May 8, with no known witnesses, a historic collapse occurred in Deer Valley.
The hulking derrick of the Daly West Mine, one of the most visible remnants of Park City’s silver-mining heyday, toppled to the ground. The steel derrick was 85 feet tall and was built sometime after 1912. It is situated outside the Montage Deer Valley and close to the Deer Valley Resort ski slopes.
The derrick — which is located at the top of the shaft of the Daly West Mine — was left horizontal on the ground afterward. It was one of the most dramatic scenes involving one of Park City’s mining-era relics in years. A fence had been built around the site prior to the collapse in order to keep people away from the derrick, sometimes referred to as a head frame, and caution tape was put around the site afterward.
Investigators indicated the shaft of the Daly West Mine started to cave in on the sides. The derrick collapsed as a result of the shaft caving in, they said. The Jordanelle Special Service District, a Wasatch County water provider, owns the shaft. City Hall and the owner quickly engaged in discussions about the future of the site.
But the collapse seemed to have even deeper meaning in a community where history is revered. Park City has long touted the mining era as something that separates it from some other mountain resorts, and the remnants of the mining days are popular places for hikes and snapshots.
"We lost a big part of our mining history, our physical representation of it," Sandra Morrison, the executive director of the Park City Museum, said.
The community’s dedication to preservation was questioned afterward. Tom Clyde, who was once the Park City attorney and is now a Park Record columnist, told the Park City Council other mining-era sites could be lost as a result of deterioration. The mining history of Park City is "what makes us unique," Clyde said as he addressed the elected officials.
As the end of the year arrives, the Daly West Mine derrick remains on the ground. There is a desire to put it upright again, but the details and timeline have not been finalized.
6. ‘Action’ in Park City
Park City has long enjoyed a dash of Hollywood glitz.
But it is normally just a spell each January during the Sundance Film Festival.
The opening of the Park City Film Studios in the middle of the year has changed that, drawing producers of television shows and movies to the Quinn’s Junction location. The opening of the facility was itself a notable accomplishment after years of discussions and disputes about the project, followed by liens during the construction phase and, eventually, a legal dispute between the developer and a business partner.
The Park City Film Studios, the developer promised early in the discussions, would be a boon for the area. It would bring movie and television crews to Park City, it was said, infusing the economy as tradesmen created sets, workers ate at restaurants and the productions put money into the community in a variety of other ways.
By the fall, it was ‘Action’ at the Park City Film Studios, as well as in the community. The facility lured the producers of a network television show called "Blood & Oil," starring actor Don Johnson. It appeared to be a solid anchor tenant for the newly opened facility.
In September, the "Blood & Oil" crew headed to Main Street to film. The "Blood & Oil" shoot on Main Street involved barricading parking spots, flaggers directing traffic and difficulties for drivers and pedestrians. The No Name Saloon was one of the filming locations.
"I think what they’re looking for is a historic building that has maintained its grass roots as an old establishment," the owner of the No Name Saloon, Jesse Shetler, said.
City Hall indicated 80 percent of the operations went as planned, but the magnitude of the scene was likely a surprise to many, including Main Street businesses that watched as parking spaces that normally would be available to customers were barricaded off for the filming. Main Street expressed concerns afterward, worrying about the prospects of more frequent filming on the street.
Bubba Brown contributed to this article.