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Spirit Mountain asks city for $235k after Snocross cancellation

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DULUTH, MN-- Spirit Mountain says it's hoping for financial boost for the city in order to make payroll, after last weekend's blizzard forced most of the 2019 AMSOIL National Snocross event to be canceled.

At Thursday night's Duluth City Council agenda session, representatives from Spirit Mountain asked for $235,000 from the city's tourism tax fund.

They said that money would make up for lost ticket, food, and beverage sales from the weekend, and would put them in a better spot until the holidays.

Spirit Mountain representatives said without that extra funding, they would be able to make payroll one more time, but might have to close indefinitely.

During a press conference at the ski hill on Friday, Spirit Mountain's executive director Brandy Ream said the city's tourism tax fund was created to help out places like Spirit Mountain when necessary.

"Spirit Mountain was never created to be completely self-funded and running as a private facility, without that assistance and the help from the City of Duluth," Ream said.

The tourism tax fund currently has a surplus of money from unused allocations.

City Councilor Arik Forsman says before the council makes a decision, he wants to see financial records.

"I'm hopeful that this is a one time thing. That's what I really want to make sure. Let's take a look at the long-term financial performance and projections for Spirit Mountain and say, 'how do we set it up for success,' because I do think it's a valuable asset, and part of the quality of life in Duluth," Forsman said.

Spirit Mountain officials say Snocross brings a $6 million impact to the city each year, while Spirit Mountain itself has around a $37 million dollar annual impact.

Ream says going forward, they're going to have to take a look at whether they will participate in Snocross, as they're left to cover a lot of expenses associated with the event.

The council has approved past budget requests from the ski hill. Now, they're focused on what's in the best long-term interest for the city.

"You have to look big picture too, to say, does not approving and shutting the doors have a bigger impact potentially. Especially when we have tourism tax money available," Forsman said.

Spirit Mountain is worried that if they don't receive this funding, they might have to make some tough decisions - but they're staying optimistic.

"I'll do everything in my power - I am not closing this hill. If that's what the question is - we are not closing Spirit Mountain," Ream said.

Councilor Forsman says the city's assistance for Spirit Mountain has varied over the years, but their average yearly allocation is around $275,000.

Councilors will vote on this week's request on Monday night.

Jenna Wells

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