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Study: Proposal to remodel Telemark would succeed

Danielle Kaeding

Wisconsin Public Radio

Plans to remodel an iconic northern Wisconsin resort would be profitable for the region, according to the results of a recent feasibility study. Florida-based HK Hospitality plans to invest about $47 million to re-open Telemark Lodge in Cable.

The hospitality company wants to buy Telemark and remodel it into a 250-room resort with around a dozen condominiums and a conference center. The redevelopment is anticipated to create up to 180 full- and part-time jobs and around $25 million in visitor spending for the region.

Bayfield County and the Town of Cable paid Oshkosh-based Hotel R&D to conduct a $15,000 feasibility study of the company’s proposal. Mike Lindner, the study author, said the company has the experience and vision to succeed.

"It’s not just a ski hill. It’s not just a golf resort. But, it’s a four-season entity that will draw, not only from the typical 300-mile radius that a resort might draw from, but this has potentially nationwide interest," he said.

Lindner said the company’s proposal to combine recreational opportunities, amenities and conferences for guests and businesses make the resort more likely to profit year-round.

The business may even top revenue projections, said James Bolen, executive director of the Cable Area Chamber of Commerce.

"They also concluded that the partners were likely going to exceed their revenue projections or reach a level of stability faster than what they are projecting," Bolen said.

Lindner projected the resort’s bookings would meet the state’s average occupancy rate of roughly 60 percent in the first two years. He added there’s sufficient markets for Telemark to generate business through the proposal, drawing from around 17 million people in the Midwest. However, he noted one challenge for the resort is its distance from those markets.

"It’s a long haul unless you’re going to be there for a very long period of time, so that was still an issue," Lindner said. "The fly-in, maybe you can get to Duluth, but, realistically if somebody’s going to fly in to a meeting, Minneapolis is where they’re going to fly into, so you’re still talking about getting people from that point to the resort."

Even so, Lindner said Telemark could become one of the top resorts in the nation.

"If this thing comes off as described, as envisioned and as planned, Telemark Resort is going to start popping up on those lists," Lindner said. "I’m convinced of it."

Bayfield County Administrator Mark Abeles-Allison said they’re pleased with the study.

"There’s been a history of people coming from all over the region to Bayfield County, and I think it would be well-received and certainly help the county from a tax base and employment situation," Abeles-Allison said.

Abeles-Allison said discussions are taking place to "encourage and expand" legislation at the state level that would allow Telemark to qualify for tax incremental financing, which is public financing often used as a subsidy to encourage development. 

Jim Kelley with HK Hospitality said they’ve been holding discussions with the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority and others at the state level about potential support for the proposal.

"There’s different programs that the state does to encourage business and we’re working on those," Kelley said.

Both the company and current owners, Mount Telemark Partners, have said they’re in talks with one another. However, a spokesman for Mount Telemark Partners said no agreements have yet been signed. Even so, Kelley hoped to reach a purchase agreement this fall and close on a sale sometime early next year. 

The iconic resort in northern Wisconsin has been closed since it was purchased by Mount Telemark Partners at a sheriff's auction in 2013.

Wisconsin Public Radio, © Copyright 2017, Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System and Wisconsin Educational Communications Board. Find more WPR news at KUWS-FM 91.3 or wpr.org.

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