Duluth City Council to Vote On Proposal Monday to Fund Spirit Mountain Through Winter

The proposal would call for $340,000 from the half-and-half tourism tax to reimburse Spirit Mountain for money they spent on their lift system, snow-making equipment and alpine coaster over 2018, 2019, and 2020.

DULUTH, Minn.- Spirit Mountain could see life this coming winter, if Duluth City Council approves a new proposal to use money from the city’s half-and-half tourism tax to cover operation costs.

Heard at an agenda session Thursday, the proposal would call for $340,000 from the half-and-half tourism tax to reimburse Spirit Mountain for money they spent on their lift system, snow-making equipment and alpine coaster over 2018, 2019, and 2020.

This comes after a summer where the adventure park was completely shut down.

If it stays closed longer, the city would be obligated to pay an estimated $2.6 million 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.

At the start of the pandemic, Spirit Mountain laid off all most all of its staff to help eliminate any further cash constraints on the attraction.

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.

“Spirit Mountain is a government authority of the City of Duluth, so it’s not just any other business,” said Jim Filby Williams, Director of Parks, Properties and Libraries.

“In fact it’s status as a local government agency has made it oddly ineligible for the federal support that has kept most other ski mountains in the United States alive,” he said. “And it has really suffered as a result.”

The proposal is separate from the work of the task force announced by Mayor Emily Larson in July to make recommendations “intended to help achieve financial stability” of Spirit Mountain.

According to Filby Williams, this proposal will help not only the ski mountain, but in turn the city.

“This payment will help boost a Duluth Tourism economy that is badly hurting right now, it ill provide badly needed outdoor recreation opportunity, and it also gives the task force time to do their work, to make their recommendations for the long-term, before we make any drastic decisions at Spirit,” he said.

Council is set to vote on the proposal Monday.

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