Still no money behind talk of a Telemark Resort revival
"Nobody has put down any money," said Dick Short, the real estate developer who holds the mortgage on Telemark. "We need something solid."
On a more promising note, Short said on December 31 that he had in hand several proposals from parties looking to buy or lease the lodge and adjacent property. If the negotiations pan out, an announcement could be made, he said.
The current state of affairs is familiar to those who have watched Telemark's rise and fall since the late Tony Wise built it in 1947. The visions for a grand destination ski and biking resort near the Chequamegon National Forest have frequently exceeded the capital required to sustain them.
Ric Ahern, a potential buyer from the Twin Cities, is the latest to fight the uphill financial battle.
His investor group, Telemark Partners LLC, reached an agreement in March to buy the 200-room lodge and nearly 1,000 acres of land. The group planned an ambitious $20 million renovation that would turn Telemark into an Olympic-level training venue for Nordic skiers, mountain bikers and other athletes.
The Partners, though, failed to secure financing to close the deal, and the legal owners, the Telemark Interval Owners Association, shuttered the building in May.
The TIOA then voted to surrender the property to Short, who had acquired the mortgage in a real estate deal 12 years ago.
Ahern and his partners have continued to seek cash - from private investors and bonds backed by Bayfield County - to follow through on their plans. Reached in late December, Ahern said he was tying up the "loose ends" of a deal to move forward and he anticipated an announcement on Monday.
Also reportedly in play are offers from Phil Controulis, a real estate investor in Cable, and at least one other potential buyer.
Short said he was committed to keeping the ski trails open and working out a deal that would benefit the local area.
Residents and business owners in Sawyer and Bayfield County are anxious for a deal that would revitalize what had been a major employer. In better times, the resort bustled with thousands of athletes competing in the American Birkebeiner Ski Race and the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival.
"It would be a boon to the whole region if it was fixed up and the doors were open," said James Bolen, executive director of the Cable Area Chamber of Commerce.
He estimated, though, that it would take a minimum of $6 million to $8 million to make the necessary renovations in the out-dated lodge. A complete make-over, like the one envisioned by Ahern, would cost roughly $20 million.
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