Summary: There is broad consensus among the task force and private industries that have been consulted that summer operations at Eaglecrest are a huge business opportunity. The question is how to get there which the task force acknowledged is a thorny issue. There was some discussion of commissioning an expert feasibility study to vet the options already created by the Eaglecrest board. At the next meeting the task force will take a closer look at the financials for the various projects in order to better understand the details of the project on a more granular level.
Watt said that all the question surrounding how the various options being considered are “more than a Rubik’s cube.” There are a number of different partners that could potentially be involved and public feedback that needs to be considered by the Assembly who ultimately have final say.
A lot of work has already been done by the Eaglecrest board, Satre says, but there needs to be a deep look at the financial aspects of each project.
Cruise ship companies are interested, Watt says, but they’re currently most concerned with where they can dock. Those companies would only be interested in investing if they can dock in the city long term.
Gladziszewski asks what options are available to fund the $30-35 million without public risk. Bryson adds that not being able to utilize the land will make it difficult to obtain bank loans.
A member of the public in attendance at the meeting asks why not put the zip line and other attractions at Sheep Creek. Doing the things the task force is talking about would mean, “Eaglecrest isn’t Eaglecrest anymore,” she said.
The amount of infrastructure needed wouldn’t make sense for two independent facilities, Scanlan says.
Members of the public are not typically allowed to asked questions during meetings unless there’s a scheduled time for it in the agenda.
There have been consultations with tourism agencies both local and international and there is interest in co-funding opportunities. There is still some question of what the actual financial structure would like, for example a public-private-partnership or a public corporation.
Scanlan says there have been provisional surveys done to gauge interest from local tour companies and cruise ship companies.
Because the city accepted federal grants from the Land Water Conservation Fund for the initial construction of Eaglecrest in the 1970s, there are certain limitations on what the city can do with the land. Scanlan says the land cannot be sold to private companies but there are ways to work with with them.
“We can work with private companies,” Scanlan says, “but we have to careful how we do it.”
The land must be used for outdoor activities and no real estate projects. Watt says that it is possible to remove LWCF regulation funds but it would be extremely difficult, on par with changing federal legislation, Watt said.
Things like hotels are generally found in close proximity to outdoor attractions and can help financially, Scanlan says. While LWCF prohibits that construction on city land, there is private land nearby that could lead to potential partnerships.
Dave Scanlan, Eaglecrest general manager is giving a presentation on potential options for summer. A gondola is being considered which would be able to take people to the top of the ski runs when the lifts aren’t running. This would also allow for operations when there’s less snow. Currently, there’s snow at the top of the mountain but not as much at lower elevations. There’s also enough room at the top for a summit lodge.
A number of attractions are being considered for Eaglecrest in the summer. A zip line, a mountain coaster, and mountain biking trails are all options. Those activities would be expensive to install but revenue generating, Scanlan says, many of them would be geared toward the local population.
Scanlan says they’ve had public meetings about these ideas which have mostly gotten positive reactions from locals. People are concerned about bus traffic and how tourists would get to Eaglecrest and effects on their hiking experience.
This is the first meeting of the summer task force. The task’s force’s purpose according to a document from Mayor Beth Weldon is to, “research and explore potential business models for the development of Eaglecrest for summer tourism.”
Watt said at the beginning of the meeting that he hasn’t heard much from the public on the matter, despite attending several public meetings. Bryson agrees that he too hasn’t heard much but said that as soon as the task force says they intend to spend $30 million they’ll have plenty of public feedback.
The Eaglecrest Summer Operations Task Force is meeting at City Hall to discuss how to make the winter attraction a year-round asset. Eaglecrest currently operates at 70% profitability, according to the Task Force website. The task force consists of Juneau City Assembly members Wade Bryson, Maria Gladziszewski and Carole Triem, City Manager Rorie Watt and Eaglecrest Board members Jonathan Dale, Bruce Garrison and Mike Satre.