“This past season, we had a difficult time with our groomer and had to put money into it,” said Theresa Sispera of the Ski Bowl Association. “We’ve run all of our capital improvement money dry to purchase a new groomer.”
Sispera said the association had enough money in its various accounts and was able to raise funds to purchase the hill groomer.
The new groomer was purchased entirely from fundraising, which includes local community foundation support and grants. The new machine will belong to the City of Grand Haven.
“But if we do have another poor season or surprise cost, we might have difficulty,” Sispera said.
Before the purchase, the Ski Bowl Association had a total of $349,451 in its various funds. After the $285,000 groomer purchase and an $18,000 utility bill from the city, the fund total will be reduced to about $45,000, which leaves Ski Bowl officials nervous.
Ski Bowl volunteers estimate that their funds could shrink even lower in the next season.
Sispera said typical season start-up costs are no greater than $15,000. She noted that although the number seems comfortable, there is always concern of a poor snowfall year or surprise costs.
To help offset some of these concerns, Ski Bowl officials recently asked City Council to waive the $18,000 utility bill for the year. But council members said the association should seek other relief.
Councilman Mike Fritz said while he understands the value of the ski hill, he isn’t in favor of the city waiving the utility fee. He encouraged Ski Bowl officials to ask the other Tri-Cities communities for support, in addition to Grand Haven.
“It’s a community-used thing, not just the City of Grand Haven,” Fritz said. “We’d like to see other communities step up.”
Earlier this year, City Council discussed the snow groomer purchase and agreed to participate in its purchase, based on proportional use of the Ski Bowl by city residents, provided neighboring municipalities did the same. However, Ski Bowl volunteers haven’t succeeded in getting similar support from neighboring communities.
“I’d like to agree with Mike (Fritz),” Councilman John Hierholzer said. “I don’t want to go down the slippery slope of forgiving the utilities.”
Hierholzer encouraged the association to reach out again to other communities for support, and then come back to City Council.