Recently the MI Ski Report blog got in touch with investor and real-estate speculator Liko Smith whose previous projects include the now kaput “The Block” hotel chain, and who currently has his sights set on Michigan’s Sugarloaf Resort, with the extra-ambitious plans to open the resort this summer and to have an operational ski resort for the 2010/2011 winter season (source).
A press release included a preview of the development plans for Sugarloaf Resort which includes a biergarten featuring local Leelenau County brews, a wine and espresso bar showcasing Leelenau County’s local vinyards, a new exterior, four-season courtyard with fire pits for après, 100 ‘chic’ rooms and 50 dormitory-style rooms.
The local communities in Northern Michigan are understandably skeptical: Sugarloaf has been shuttered for a decade. I can’t imagine that a chairlift left unmaintained and exposed to the elements for that long has any useful life left — it’s likely that everything from the inside-out would need to be completely overhauled to make the project viable: linens, plumbing, wiring, carpet, windows, computers, chairlifts, etc., etc., etc. In addition to the overwhelming magnitude of the project, in recent years several other bids have fallen through, and Smith has, for lack of better terms, a checkered past, including allegations of grand theft and embezzlement, and previous business associations with some unsavory characters.
I’m reserving judgment for the time being. As far as I’m aware, a purchase agreement has not been finalized or accepted, and even then, I will be very cautiously pessimistic until I see some serious development, like putting up a few million dollars worth of new chairlifts.
I love the idea of more places to shred, especially since the few resorts we do have are often quite crowded. But in this economy, ski/snowboard resorts are not exactly a growing business opportunity, the only way to get skiers and riders on the slopes at a new resort like Sugarloaf, is to take them away from other resorts like Crystal Mountain, Nubs Nob, and the two Boyne Resorts.
On a positive note, though, I really do hope they’re able to get this resort open, and that it works out to everyone’s benefit.