Duluth Council Approves Spirit Mountain Summer Closure; Extra $350K Still Needed for Winter Reopening

The adventure park's financial request comes while the city is facing a potential $38 million budget shortfall.

DULUTH, Minn.- The Duluth City Council unanimously passed Spirit Mountain’s annual multi-million dollar budget Tuesday evening, which is also calling for extra funding later this year to get the park reopened for the winter season after being shut down for the rest of the summer.

Councilors just approved the adventure park’s $4 million operating budget for the 2020-2021 season, but not the additional funding yet. That is a conversation, many councilors said will require a lot of discussion and tough decisions.

“I think it’d be very premature to not approve this budget especially at this time,” said Councilor Janet Kennedy.

In addition to Mayor Emily Larson’s newly formed task force to study Spirit Mountain’s future, Kennedy also expressed the possibility of economic impact study on the park.

“So I kept thinking …  if we don’t approve it, what’s going to happen, right?” Kennedy said. “Some things will happen where we’re going to have to pay a whole lot of money when we really don’t even have a whole lot of money right now, and we won’t have a whole lot of that money going forward because of the pandemic.”

Kennedy is referring to an estimated $2.6 million the city would be obligated to pay in Spirit Mountain’s outstanding debt, season pass refunds, payroll and accounts payable that the park’s board says they won’t be able to pay.

The financial need from Spirit Mountain comes during historic financial times for the City of Duluth with a projected budget shortfall as high as around $38 million by the end of the year — in part because of a massive loss of tourism tax revenue — which has caused roughly 100 layoffs of city employees so far.

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