Eaglecrest to remain focused on the community

Posted: Monday, September 15, 2003

Management at the Eaglecrest Ski Area will try to increase the number of skiable days at the area in the winter and raise the amount of revenue entering the area in the summer months. But the area will not resort to selling alcohol or privatizing the operation, representatives of the area told the Juneau Assembly finance committee last week.

"The main focus is that Eaglecrest will become a year-round recreation center involving both public use and commercial use," said Gary Mendivil, the business manager for the area.

In May, the Eaglecrest board of directors asked the city for $240,000 to help fill the ski area's $479,000 fund-balance deficit. But the Juneau Assembly refused the funds until the area produced a long-term business plan.

Eaglecrest has been working with the Juneau Economic Development Council to create such a plan to help the area maintain consistent annual revenues. A draft strategic plan was presented to the finance committee on Sept. 10.

The plan includes building a trail system at the area for public and commercial use; clearing the runs of some stumps and rocks so skiing is possible with less snowfall; bringing electrical power to Eaglecrest so the area doesn't have to rely on diesel fuel; and remodeling and expanding the day lodge and cafeteria.

Season passes at the area this season, if bought before Nov. 8, will sell for $249, instead of the $375 price last season. There will be no refunds for the passes in case of poor snow conditions.

Though the draft plan required no official assembly approval, the presentation was a necessary step in the business plan process, said committee Chairman Jim Powell.

"It was very important for them to get feedback from us before they went into a business plan," Powell said.

One of the primary issues is the relationship between Eaglecrest and the city, city officials said.

"The question is, do they want to see Eaglecrest more like the swimming pool or something more business-like," said Craig Duncan, city finance director.

The finance committee said Eaglecrest should receive support from the city if needed, said Powell.

"A lot of assembly members feel (Eaglecrest should) do a better job to more fully utilize the facility," Powell said. "If you make a profit, good, but that's not the goal. The goal is to be community-based."

The ski area's budget is constructed so revenues cover 75 percent of total expenses. This year, the budget has revenue covering 77 percent of the $1.68 million in expenses, Mendivil said.

Area management and the Juneau Assembly rejected the possibility of selling alcohol at the area or privatizing some of its services.

"They asked us if we wanted to include alcohol, and the answer was a resounding 'No, continue on course without it,' " Powell said.

Allowing private industry to take over some of the operation would be too complicated, Mendivil said.

Alcohol is a large part of the revenue of private ski areas, Eaglecrest management told the Assembly. Also, private industry likely would charge more for lift tickets, making the area less accessible for community members.

The ski area is about one-third of the way through the business plan process, Mendivil said.

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