Sale fuels excitement, speculation

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The uncertainty is over.

That is how Sheraton Steamboat Resort general manger Chuck Porter described how he felt Tuesday after learning Intrawest plans to purchase the Steamboat Ski Area for $265 million.

"We fall in line with the general public's reaction that it's one uncertainty settled," Porter said. "Having a mountain owner-operator lined up will inherently help give people confidence."

At the same time, the question of who will purchase the Sheraton Steamboat Resort's properties, which many speculated would also be picked up by the buyer of the ski area, is unanswered. The property includes the 315-room Sheraton hotel, Ski Time Square commercial buildings and Thunderhead Lodge.

"It certainly makes sense for the ski area owners to own and control as much of the base area as possible, but that's not to preclude other owners," Porter said. "It was speculated that it would be the same group, but there are several groups that are interested."

Porter and many community leaders say they look forward to the redevelopment potential at the base area. Intrawest has looked at the Sheraton property, and even if the company decides not to buy it, many believe Intrawest's pending acquisition of the ski area is good for Steamboat.

"They know how to maintain it and they know how to manage it, and from a local community standpoint those are the things the community wants," said John Kerst, president of First National Bank of Steamboat Springs. "This community will do what it always has done, and that's improve over time."

Both Kerst and Porter added that Intrawest is inheriting a great staff at Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., which likely contributed to the high price tag.

"I think the community is excited about the possibility of new ownership and what that will mean to the reinvestment of capital infrastructure at the ski area," Steamboat Springs City Council President Ken Brenner said. "Many feel that the other resorts in Colorado have outpaced us, and we're looking forward to seeing that change."

Steamboat Village Brokers broker-owner David Baldinger Jr. headed base area redevelopment efforts and said he was excited by the possibility of upgrades to facilities on and off the mountain.

"Hopefully we'll get another high-speed quad lift out of this," Baldinger said.

The real estate market has been filled with speculation surrounding the sale, and it probably will give way to a short-term increase in base area property values of between 5 and 10 percent.

"Long-term I think it is very positive news that will make everyone's real estate values strong," Baldinger said.

- To reach Matt Stensland, call 871-4210 or e-mail mstensland@steamboatpilot.com

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