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Because the mega-hotel would primarily be occupied by convention attendees, Rosa worries that the hotel would likely sit vacant for much of the year, which wouldn’t be cheap. The hotel would also compete directly with the existing hotel market in downtown Salt Lake, resulting in an all-out fare war among hotels, which would benefit no one (except deal-seeking consumers). He also believes the mega-hotel would negatively impact the hotel market in neighboring communities like Davis County and south and west Salt Lake County, which gain an occupancy boost when large conventions, like Outdoor Retailer, are in town.
But Rosa also believes that Salt Lake should work to enhance its convention business. He argues, however, that if the city wants to be a serious contender for more conventions, it needs to consider expanding the Salt Palace to attract much larger conventions. “We need to decide what kind of conventions we’re going to go after instead of working backwards by starting with the hotel first and then expanding the Salt Palace.”
Rosa’s final argument is that if a convention hotel is truly needed in the downtown Salt Lake market, the private sector would already be developing it and there would be no need for public assistance. “If it was viable enough to do right now, private companies would be doing it. But the economy hasn’t recovered that much. It’s another indication that a convention hotel isn’t needed right now.”
WILL SKILINK ENHANCE UTAH’S SKI INDUSTRY?
By Sarah Ryther Francom
“SkiLink will help Utah differentiate our ski and snowboard offering from all other ski states and regions,” says Mike Goar, managing director of Canyons Resort. SkiLink is a gondola that would connect Canyons and Solitude Mountain Resort in approximately 11 minutes, creating the nation’s largest interconnected resort.
Goar and others in the tourism industry, including Ski Utah, believe that the project would greatly enhance the state’s outdoor experience and, therefore, the tourism industry. “There are numerous examples in Europe of these types of ski circuits that have had overwhelming and lasting economic impacts,” he says. “Not only will tourists use SkiLink, Utah will be their destination of choice in part because of the SkiLink experience.”
Opponents argue that SkiLink’s development would negatively impact other land users, a sentiment Goar acknowledges is likely true. But he says SkiLink has been designed to reduce that impact. “A rider can only enter and exit within the boundaries of the respective resorts. This was done to eliminate the impact to backcountry skiers,” he says. “Resort skiing is a very efficient use of land for recreation and is confined to a very small area as compared to the public land available for other users.”
Goar adds that SkiLink will pump dollars into the state’s economy. “Tourism is already one of Utah’s primary economic engines, providing 123,000 jobs, $6.5 billion in tourist spending, and $840 million in state and local taxes,” he says. “SkiLink will inject another $51 million into the local economy, $3 million in tax revenues and create a ripple effect that will add more than 500 new jobs.”
And while many are worried that SkiLink will harm the area’s environment, specifically its watershed, Goar says it’s an unnecessary and exaggerated concern. “Building a lift in Big Cottonwood Canyon absolutely does not negatively impact the watershed,” he says. “Cirrus Ecological Solutions, a Utah environmental consulting firm, has determined that SkiLink can be built with no negative impacts to the environment.”
Goar adds that SkiLink could potentially reduce traffic, thus improving air quality. “We know with certainty that skiers and riders drive every morning of the winter between the resorts of Solitude and Canyons…We commissioned a traffic study by a very well-known transportation firm, InterPlan, who estimated a reduction of 1 million miles driven per year and 1 million fewer pounds of greenhouse gas emissions.”
Goar acknowledges that SkiLink isn’t a solution for all winter sports enthusiasts, but says it will eventually benefit all Utahns. “Connecting the resorts is an opportunity that does not exist anywhere else in North America. We can set Utah apart as the winter destination of choice in North America, enjoy the tremendous economic impact and do this without negative environmental consequences.”
“SkiLink is a proposal that we’re not too excited about,” says Carl Fisher, executive director of Save Our Canyons, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the beauty and wildness of the Wasatch canyons, mountains and foothills.