LAKE PLACID - The state Olympic Regional Development Authority is trying to move forward with the idea of installing ziplines at at least one of its facilities after the project has been put on hold several years in a row.
At Tuesday's meeting of the ORDA board, President and CEO Ted Blazer asked about the status of the project.
ORDA Senior Vice President Jeff Byrne said a number of zipline companies have visited, and some have showed a definite interest in moving forward and presenting the authority with a business proposal.
Byrne noted that there are several options: A company could share revenue with ORDA, the company could take more liability but make more of the profit, ORDA could take full ownership, or it could be a blend of those options.
"The concepts are interesting - overwhelming with the amount of terrain that they could cover," Byrne said.
ORDA is currently gathering additional demographic information at Whiteface Mountain Ski Center and the Olympic Jumping Complex, which Byrne said the interested companies plan to use to return with some options.
Byrne said Gore Mountain Manager Mike Pratt is already at that point and is waiting to hear back from one or two companies on a proposal.
A board member asked how much revenue could be expected from a zipline. Byrne estimated it could draw 20,000 rides a year and that the authority could charge $25 for each ride.
"Depending upon what the business relationship is, it could be anything from $100,000 to $500,000 a year that could go to the venue's bottom line," Byrne said.
Vice Chairman Joe Kelly asked if there are any other ziplines around the North Country.
Board member Bob Flacke said there's a successful zipline in Bolton Landing, which skirted problems with the state Adirondack Park Agency by staying entirely below the tree line.
There is also a zipline in North Creek, and "Karate Kid" actor Ralph Macchio's father is awaiting APA permission to build a bigger one in Lake George.
Blazer said any proposal would need to be sensitive to the unit management plan for that piece of land and any amendments involved. He said the town of North Elba has extended its approval for a zipline installation at the ski jumps, which it first approved in 2008. He said that might help speed along the process.
Byrne noted that the authority is looking at existing structures to work off of so it's not building new towers unnecessarily.
A revenue opportunity
The zipline could be a good source of revenue for ORDA, which could use a little more.
Alan Walther, an accountant with the Bonadio Group, completed an audit of ORDA's financial statements and gave a presentation on it later in the meeting. When Kelly asked how ORDA's operations compare to similar organizations, Walther said it's difficult to compare since ORDA is a government authority. Generally, he said, a business should have operating expenses about the same as the money coming in. ORDA's revenue is now about 70 percent of its expenses, Walther said.
Flacke said that universally, ski centers don't make a profit themselves, but rather they generate business by having developments at their base. Because of the state ownership and land regulations around the three mountains ORDA runs, that's not an option.
He said ORDA's management has come close to breaking even, "which I think is a great victory."
ORDA Chairman Pat Barrett said he was glad Flacke made that point because a lot of people don't understand it.