VAIL, Colo. August 17, 2004 - Vail Resorts announced today that it has closed on the purchase of a major portion of Vassar Meadows, 357 acres of open space located south of Eagle, Colo., from The Conservation Fund for more than $4.7 million. Much of this land will be combined with an in-holding of 135 acres that Vail Resorts already owns in the South Game Creek area on Vail Mountain. Then, as part of an environmental effort to preserve open space, both parcels are expected to be ultimately conveyed to the U.S. Forest Service in exchange for five acres at the base of Vail Mountain that are vital to Vail's Front Door redevelopment. Any Vassar Meadows land now owned by Vail Resorts that is not conveyed to the Forest Service as part of the land exchange will not be developed, and will be held for a future exchange or donation to the Forest Service by the Company.
In addition to the 357-acre purchase, 153 acres remain to be purchased either by Vail Resorts and conveyed to the Forest Service or will be donated directly by The Conservation Fund to the Forest Service. Through this public-private partnership, the agreement announced today will ensure that all 510 acres comprising Vassar Meadows will be permanently protected and eventually transferred to the Forest Service. As an added benefit, The Conservation Fund has indicated it plans to use the $4.7 million proceeds from this transaction to invest in other important conservation projects in Colorado and the West.
"Vail Resorts is making this $4.7 million purchase both out of our long-standing commitment to environmental stewardship and because a completion of the South Game Creek Land Exchange should enable the Company to proceed with our ambitious Vail's Front Door development. Vail Resorts' purchase of Vassar Meadows, undeveloped land important to the U.S. Forest Service and to our local community, combined with land that we own on the back of Vail Mountain, will be preserved in perpetuity as open space for countless future generations to enjoy. Furthermore, as a result of this action, Vail Resorts will be able to take the next step toward an exchange for the five-acre parcel of land at the base of Vail Mountain that will be redeveloped as Vail's Front Door, new world-class skier service amenities for Vail. This should further cement Vail's stature as the top-ranked ski resort in North America," said Adam Aron, chairman and CEO of Vail Resorts.
The five-acre site at the base of the Vista Bahn Lift on Vail Mountain is currently home to a skier plaza, public restrooms, mountain operations building and the bottom of Chair 1. Redevelopment plans for Vail's Front Door project call for a new, state-of-the-art skier services facility and landscaped plaza that will offer guests one-stop shopping for lift tickets, ski and snowboard rentals, ski and snowboard school, lockers and dining.
Today's announcement represents the final phase of an ongoing effort by The Conservation Fund, the Eagle Valley Land Trust and citizens of Eagle County to safeguard wetlands and open space in the East Brush Creek watershed. Five years ago, The Conservation Fund purchased 1,783 acres along the Creek, protecting one of Colorado's most important natural areas from development. With support from Colorado State Parks the Town of Eagle, Eagle County and Great Outdoors Colorado, The Conservation Fund transferred approximately 1,273 acres to the State for inclusion in Sylvan Lake State Park. Using risk capital from its Western Revolving Fund, The Conservation Fund retained ownership of the remaining 510 acres -- safeguarding the property until a long-term conservation solution could be developed.
"This is a great example of how business and conservation can work together. We applaud Vail Resorts for stepping forward to take on the financial responsibility of holding this valuable natural area until a land exchange with the Forest Service can be completed," said The Conservaation Fund's Tom Macy. "Thanks to this public-private partnership, one of Colorado's most important landscapes will continue to benefit wildlife and soon be available for pubic recreation and enjoyment."
Vail Resorts and the U.S. Forest Service will now begin work on the proposed South Game Creek Land Exchange. Following the exchange, the Company will need to seek final approvals from the Town of Vail to redevelop the five-acre parcel so that it can begin construction in April 2006.