New WildPlay venture could help settle Sima debt

Mount Sima's WildPlay summer adventure park might get a second lease on life this summer. A group of local investors is working with Friends of Sima to find a way to get the adventure park open again.

Mount Sima’s WildPlay summer adventure park might get a second lease on life this summer.

A group of local investors is working with Friends of Sima to find a way to get the adventure park open again.

It was closed last year after the previous society running the hill, the Great Northern Ski Society, collapsed under its debt load.

Friends of Sima vice-president Rod Taylor said that investors have worked out a royalty-sharing agreement which will help cover the outstanding $400,000 debt that GNSS owes to WildPlay.

“About six months ago, the board of Friends of Sima were chatting and starting to talk about the long-term opportunity to keep Sima going,” Taylor said.

“I was the one that said, you know, until the WildPlay debt issue is dealt with, it’s going to be very hard to engage people because it’ll be the elephant in the room,” he said.

Taylor approached Northern Vision Development’s Rich Thompson and they came up with a shareholder plan to spread the debt between a number of investors.

It’s a bit of an unorthodox plan. The park’s value was carved into 12 investment shares, each worth $15,000. For all the investors who buy in, each will get one per cent of the royalties generated by the park’s operation.

Thompson agreed.

“We were looking for something a little more creative. We’ll take a small percentage of the summer revenue in exchange for putting up some money, which would allow us the potential to make some of our money back,” he said.

The business community has been very strong in its support of Sima, Thompson said, and many companies were feeling a little tapped out in terms of providing more straight-up sponsorship dollars.

There are two big advantages to this plan, he explained.

The first is that the group was able to get WildPlay to come on board and buy four of the investment units, which demonstrates their belief that the park will eventually be a viable business venture.

“They are one of the investment partners. Obviously if they’re prepared to not only accept a reduced amount of cash, but they’re also willingly taking units in the exercise, they are signaling their support,” Thompson said.

As of Tuesday, 10 of the 12 shares have been sold. In order to make the plan work, the group needs to sell its other two remaining shares.

The move will also allow the Friends of Sima to protect the adventure park assets at the hill.

The adventure park will be a leaner operation than it once was, said Taylor.

“It’s very unlikely that it’s just going to be open to the public seven days a week. Just as with Mount Sima, we lessened the number of days that it was opened, we reduced the number of staff, we’re doing the same model for WildPlay,” Taylor said.

“What you’re going to see is us targeting a whole bunch of groups like city camps, and the rangers, and larger groups where you would know exactly the days they are coming, and we could combine that with Friday, Saturday and Sunday, maybe open to the public,” he said.

The Friends of Sima had a long haul to get this far with the hill. The whole mess started last year when the Great Northern Ski Society, which was still running the hill, asked the City of Whitehorse for nearly $800,000 to keep the hill running.

That didn’t fly, and eventually GNSS collapsed. It is still working on clearing out its debts so it can officially dissolve, and the Friends of Sima formed in its stead and raised money to save the ski hill.

By Taylor’s reckoning, it has been a huge success. The society has sold more than 900 seasons passes this year, nearly quintupling the previous seasonal record.

“Outstanding would not be too much of an embellishment,” Taylor said. “Food and beverage sales will both break records. Notwithstanding a horrific deep-freeze, we’re looking very good for the rest of the year.”

Contact Jesse Winter at

jessew@yukon-news.com

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