Happy Endings in Park City Unlikely

I’ve been holding out hoping that this whole situation would work itself out; like kids on a playground finally figuring out they’ll have more fun if they stop arguing and get along. Then I would only get to write about the happy ending. I still might get to write about the happy ending but it won’t be anytime soon.

The hammer’s coming down this afternoon and either Park City Mountain Resort will be required to pack it in and make room for Vail Resorts to take over resort operations or 3rd District Court Judge Ryan Harris will stay VR’s eviction order to give PCMR time to appeal the May 21, 2014, decision.

Judge Harris heard motions from PCMR this spring, took time to mull over the evidence presented from both sides and ultimately ruled in favor of VR and partner Talisker Land Holdings, LLC. In short, Harris ruled the land lease between Talisker and PCMR expired in 2011. Last year, Talisker gave VR the right to operate both Canyons Resort and PCMR (pending the trial outcome) for the next 50 years for a whopping $25 million per year. With VR having no interest in extending PCMR’s lease or even issuing a new one, the Park City community has speculated on what will become of the business that just celebrated their 50th anniversary.

VR’s Rob Katz urged Powdr Corp. (owners of PCMR) to “do the right thing” and, what, walk away? Why is that the ‘right’ thing? That’s like someone who wants something from you calling you selfish because you won’t give it to them. That doesn’t make you selfish. It makes them selfish. It’s probably the legal thing, the pacifist thing, maybe even the smart thing to stop fighting this court battle. PCMR has the base area that will soon become a Woodward training camp for terrain park rats and they can lease to VR access to the rest of the mountain. Threats have been bantered around that PCMR will literally pull up stakes and leave the land bare of all usable chairlifts and lodges. According to last week’s court filing, PCMR plans to remove all of the Town, Crescent, King Con, Silverlode, Bonanza, McConkey’s, Pioneer, Eaglet and Silver Star lifts. Only the towers of Jupiter, Thaynes and Motherlode lifts would remain because they are “affixed to the land”. The resort estimates spending more than $7 million for the dismantling. There would be no 2014/15 ski season; instead there would be limited riding in the terrain park and off the lower terrain (Payday, Eagle and Three Kings would be modified for continued use). In the summer, there would still be hiking, biking, the Alpine Slide, an alpine coaster and a zip line.

 

Options

It doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom for Park City (although it’s more fun to pretend it does);

VR could buy the structures; if PCMR were willing to sell them.

VR could pay PCMR damages for the millions spent improving the resort during the time between when the lease had expired and VR spoke up about it… and then buy the structures off them.

VR could sign PCMR to a new lease (both sides say this will never happen)

PCMR could lease the equipment to VR and sell an easement to access the resort from PCMR’s parking lots.

PCMR could deny access and VR would be forced to sell tickets to both resorts from Canyons’ boundary and anyone with an Epic pass would have to hike (way) up past the Crescent and PayDay bases to catch a lift up the mountain.

VR spends millions installing new lifts after PCMR plays hardball and yanks everything from the upper mountain.

Am I leaving anything out? There are more moves here than a Chess World Championship.

 

Today, PCMR will ask Harris to postpone signing an eviction order so that the sides can figure out who owes what to whom. There’s back rent due to Talisker and damages owed to PCMR. Hopefully, those will offset each other. Both sides have already spent a small fortune on this power struggle. PCMR also wants Harris to wait until the outcome of their appeal to decide how to enforce an eviction order. Not to mention that if Harris doesn’t postpone and the eviction starts, like, yesterday, PCMR will have very little time to dismantle their facilities. Rumor has it that PCMR patrollers are on standby for swift demolition duties. VR says PCMR will have 60 days to vacate but that sounds optimistically generous under the circumstances.

 

Already, surrounding home and condo owners are contemplating an exit strategy. “We are looking at other real estate right now and thinking of selling [our Park City rental],” says one Utah local. “Not sure if ‘walking distance to Park City Micro Resort’ and ‘Woodward Park City at your doorstep” are much of a selling point. You can’t even get those dirtbags to buy lunch at Legacy Lodge.”

PCMR even hired an analyst to determine that if PCMR’s out-of-state skiers go someplace else, the local economy could take a $40-100 million hit, including a loss of more than 1,000 jobs. “The consequences are too dramatic if the court does allow the eviction to go forward,” Alan Sullivan, PCMR’s lead attorney, told the Park Record Newspaper.

 

It is now up to the Judge to decide.

 

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