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Town extends group's lease on King ice rink

Arrangement with Center Management Inc. extended for 5 years.
By Benjamin Graham, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
December 24, 2012

Town of Jackson leaders extended a lease with the new managers of the Snow King Sports and Event Center for five more years.

The deal helps pave the way for a slate of changes — including a new restaurant and an additional ice sheet — proposed for the combined ice rink and conference space.

Nonprofit group Center Management Inc., which took over operations last year, will pay the town 8 percent of net profits beginning in March 2014 under the contract, which was unanimously approved by town officials at a meeting Friday. Until then, rent is $1 per month. The group has the option of extending the lease for another five years, according to the contract.

The agreement shows that the town, which owns the buildings, supports CMI’s vision for the center.

“It would be my notion that it’s an endorsement of the direction we’re headed,” said John Valiante, president and chief executive of Center Management.

Valiante’s team has proposed a series of ambitious changes for the center, including some that are already under way. Construction crews now are working to upgrade the entrance and add a conference room, which will extend off the east side of the building. Restrooms also are being renovated, among a list of other smaller improvements.

A new ice rink could soon be erected in the parking lot northeast of the main building. Valiante also has applied for a resort liquor license, which could lead to a food stand being installed in the upper mezzanine.

“It would be something that would look very much like a restaurant,” Valiante said.

The new direction and lease agreement are a marked change from how the space has been run in the past. Snow King Resort and Manuel Lopez managed it from the time it was built. Much of the focus then was on filling hotel rooms, said Town Manager Bob McLaurin.

Lopez’s group paid $150,000 each year in rent.

“The town paid the debt off on the building and went to a new model,” McLaurin. “It’s a fundamentally different approach.”

Valiante hopes the revamped center will be a revenue generator. The center lost money last year.

With the extended lease agreement, Valiante believes his group will be able to raise financial support from private donors more easily for some of the planned improvements. The additional ice rink is estimated to cost $2 million, and Valiante plans to fund much of the project through donations.

The town has helped fund some of the improvements at the center in the past. With the upgrades, the town and CMI hope to attract more conferences and sporting events to Jackson Hole.

“The benefit to the town is through sales tax revenue and lodging revenue,” McLaurin said.

Town officials also voted to extend Snow King Mountain Recreation’s lease for the ski shelter. Rent is $100 per year.

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