The Canyons deserves community’s support
Just as it was during the silver boom, Park City is heavily vested in a specific industry. These days, though, the community’s mainstay is tourism rather than mining. While real estate, retail and year-round residential growth have rounded out the current economic base, the driving force behind each season’s success is the resort industry, represented locally by Deer Valley, Park City Mountain Resort and The Canyons.
When they are doing well, everyone in the community benefits in one way or another and when a major local landowner claims one of the big three is in trouble it concerns all of us.
Specifically, Kenny Griswold’s allegation that the American Skiing Company, which owns The Canyons, is in deep financial trouble, and his threats to terminate its lease on his land are causing waves of anxiety in several sectors of the community. On closer inspection though, Griswold’s motives are unclear.
According to Griswold, The Canyons has been built by a company that is barely solvent. But even Griswold must admit that, however precariously financed, ASC has furnished the resort with a 300-room hotel, a new base lodge, a conference center, a slew of new lifts and greatly expanded its skiable terrain. Furthermore, the company has been contributing to the community since it entered the picture in 1997.
Which brings us back to Griswold who ran the resort as Wolf Mountain until signing off on a lucrative deal to lease the property to ASC. Under Griswold’s tenure the ski area’s improvements were minimal but the community was grateful that he kept the lifts running and, on the eve of Utah’s participation in the 2002 Winter Olympics, both Griswold and community leaders eagerly welcomed ASC and its enthusiasm about the potential of the property to become a major resort.
At the time, Griswold lauded ASC’s aggressive master plan for the property and joined with other property owners in pledging easements for community amenities in exchange for development approvals. As property values heated up at The Canyons, Griswold merrily collected his lucrative consulting and leasing fees.
Recently, though, Griswold turned against his tenant claiming ASC has not honored its agreement with him. Summit County, in turn, has sued Griswold for not living up to his part of the development agreement. Those contract disagreements are now in court and have yet to be ruled on. In the meantime, Griswold has publicly stated that he is shopping the resort around.
The situation should be familiar to anyone who has ever leased a house, fixed it up and then been kicked out by an ungrateful landlord who sees an opportunity to raise the rent.
Unfortunately, the biggest losers in this scenario could be an entire community. The approvals at The Canyons were granted largely because ASC agreed to provide a golf course, participate in public transit plans and to adhere to county building and zoning codes. With the exception of the disputed golf course, ASC fulfilled those commitments and more. The company contributed to local schools, invested time and money in preparing for the Olympics even though it was not an official venue, has hosted free concerts and its share of winter and summer sporting events. If Griswold succeeds in breaking the lease and finding a new tenant, there is no guarantee they would be play the same role.
Griswold makes a big deal out of the fact that ASC’s stock price has fallen dramatically. Most Parkites, though, couldn’t care less about ASC’s ranking on Wall Street and are much more impressed with The Canyons’ growth and its contributions to the community over the last decade.
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