The Eaglecrest Summer Operations Task Force wants to bring summer tourists to Eaglecrest, but they’re not yet sure how to pay for it.
A number of funding models for the proposed “Adventure Park” — intended to ensure the city-owned ski area isn’t losing money — were looked at during the task force’s meeting at City Hall.
The meeting had barely begun Thursday when Assembly member Maria Gladziszewski moved to strike an all-public financing model idea. Task force members said they didn’t want the public to think the project would require raising taxes. No task force members objected, and some said they were under the impression that option was never actually meant to be considered.
But the question of how the city is going to pay for the estimated $35 million needed to build a gondola, summit lodge, zip line, mountain coaster and other amenities that can keep the Eaglecrest Ski Area open year-round, is an open one.
“It all comes back to the cruise ship companies,” Gladziszewski said, “because that’s where most of the summer money will come from.”
Either the city or any potential developers will have to negotiate with cruise ship companies to contract bringing a certain number of visitors each year.
“None of the cruise ship companies have said they think summer operations at Eaglecrest is a bad idea,” City Manager Rorie Watt said. But at the same time, he said, none of them had come forward to make any kind of offer. Watt said he doesn’t believe they won’t, just that the project is not well formed enough yet for them to make any substantial arrangements.
Task force members spent the first half of the meeting listening to Eaglecrest General Manager Dave Scanlan walk through three different financial models for funding what he referred to as an “Adventure Park.”
The City and Borough of Juneau could retain sole ownership of the all the amenities at the park, or the city could enter into some kind of public-private partnership. If the city were to retain full ownership, costs would be higher but so would the returns, Scanlan said. Under a public-private model, costs would be lower because some of the park’s staff would be private employees, but then some of money generated by the park would go to that company.
Lastly the city could simply turn over all summer operations to a private company who would negotiate with the Eaglecrest Board of Directors to ensure the area would be open again for the winter ski season. That would generate money for the city through some kind of leasing arrangement.
Several members of the task force said during the meeting they wanted to ensure the park would be attractive to locals as well, and retain enough of its current features so people who enjoy the area will still want to use it.
The meeting ended with members discussing hiring a private company to conduct a feasibility study to look at the financial models presented by Scanlan. Although a date has not been set, members suggested holding a public comment meeting soon to get an idea of how the public felt about the proposals.
The next task force meeting is scheduled for Feb. 6.
• Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.