The city now owns a gondola in Austria purchased for $1.33 million by local officials inspecting it this week. Now, the trick is getting it home and installed at Eaglecrest Ski Area – although another agreement by city leaders this week means they’ll be asking Goldbelt Inc. for up to $10 million to help cover all those bills.
Eaglecrest general manager Dave Scanlan and Alan Steffert, a city project manager, visited Galsterberg Ski Area this week to examine the Doppelmayr lift built in 1989 and sign the sale agreement for 1.23 million Euro.
“The contract has been signed and we are wading through the complexities that are international wire transfers,” Deputy City Manager Robert Barr said Thursday.
The gondola has a 2,430-meter-long ropeway, 15 fire-galvanized towers, 12 cabins with room for 15 people each, and it can transport up to 600 people an hour. The next step is disassembling and shipping it from the nearest port to the Eaglecrest. Barr said the city is seeking bids from transport companies.
Another step forward occurred Monday when the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly Committee of the Whole unanimously authorized City Manager Rorie Watt to negotiate an agreement with Goldbelt, which is seeking a portion of summer ticket revenue for an undetermined length of time “until such time as (an) appropriate return is earned” for the Alaska Native coroporation’s sizable financial contribution.
The assembly in February approved up to $2 million for the gondola purchase, but some members expressed reservations because of uncertainty about the public’s desire and the total cost of the project far exceeds the purchase, such as an estimated $4.5 million for installation.
But there was minimal discussion Monday about negotiating with Goldbelt – which the committee took up at the end of a meeting that exceeded three hours and included a power failure occurring part way through discussion of the proposal.
Goldbelt, which is heavily involved in various local tourism operations including the Goldbelt Mount Roberts Tramway, “is uniquely situated for a lot of reasons,” Watt told the committee. The concept is Goldbelt will ensure use of the gondola expands beyond winter ski operations to include a mountain coaster, small summit house and other summer season offerings.
In an overview submitted by Watt to the committee before the meeting, he stated “like CBJ, Goldbelt is designed to be in business forever. As such, their ability to agree
to long-term agreements (and) contemplate long-term pay back is substantially more flexible than other private sector parties.” He also noted profits earned by Goldbelt stay in the community, the company owns land adjacent to Eaglecrest and its operation of the tram opens up “a variety of opportunities for sales and marketing.”
“The devil definitely will be in the details,” Watt said, noting that during an Eaglecrest board of directors meeting earlier this month the “desire is to have Eaglecrest retain control of all operations.”
“But I am heartened by Goldbelt’s overture, and I strongly support the motion to start negotiations,” he added.
• Contact reporter Mark Sabbatini at Mark.Sabbatini@juneauempire.com.