Money woes not snowing in Highlands of Olympia ski hill plans
City of Oconomowoc -The two tenants at Highlands of Olympia aren't letting problems with ownership of the property slow them down. Casey Bingham and Brent Milkey who manage the ski hill, have been working diligently to reopen this season with improvements.
The two business partners have been working to freshen the property with a cleanup and new paint, and are introducing tubing and a new vendor at the cafe.
The other tenant, Sean Smith, operates an indoor sports arena, STiKS Academy, in the same building as the ski hill rentals and cafe. Bingham said that the place is packed after 5 p.m. each day.
This summer, the owner of the ski hill and golf course, Jeff Statz, filed for receivership - which is similar to a federal bankruptcy filing. Seth Dizard of the Milwaukee law firm O'Neil, Cannon, Hollman, DeJong & Laing became the receiver of the property. Statz owes $2.6 million to ISB Community Bank of Ixonia on the property. The property was also facing losing its liquor license because it was delinquent for property taxes and utilities to the city. However, the bank has paid the $36,000 owed in delinquent taxes along with another $150 for utility bills.
Bingham said the two tenants can maintain operations until April 30. The hope is that a new owner will surface and buy the property by then.
Keith Farley, owner of Oliver Construction, asked Mayor Jim Daley at Thursday's Breakfast with the Mayor if the city had plans to work with the bank to try and either attract an owner or help keep the businesses open. Farley and others have expressed concerns about the city losing the attraction and the two tenants losing their businesses.
Daley said the city has met with stakeholders and is doing its part to "try and find scenarios to save it. We're working with the bank to see if there are options to support the current users. I think it's fair to say that the city is working diligently to try and maintain this area, and we're looking to see if there is a scenario that makes sense to the taxpayers."
Keeping it alive
Regardless of the financial woes tied to the property, Bingham isn't slowing his work to offer the community a good ski season. He said he has plans to blow snow early this week to try and generate some buzz about the upcoming season.
He's also contracted with Hometown Market of Ixonia to offer some home cooking in the ski hill cafe. Mother-and-daughter team Lori Kowalske and Nikki Layher will prepare sandwiches, salads and other lunch-style fare at the cafe this season.
"It's good homemade food from a family business," said Layher.
To kick it off, they are hosting a fashion show beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 17, at the ski hill. Local businesses LACI Boutique, Goodwill, Sherpers and Beverly Designs will have winter and other fashions on display during the luncheon style show. "We wanted to show off the improvements to the restaurant and area before the ski season, and we thought this would be a fun and creative way to do that and get local businesses together," she said. Call (414) 429-7948 to reserve a spot.
Bingham is taking the same approach to the ski hill and working to offer a updated, family friendly environment for the community. While he's not from the area, the young entrepreneur has quite a bit of skin in the game.
"I like Oconomowoc. I feel it's a recession-proof area to a certain extent. A lot of people are doing all right around here, and they like what we've done. It's a good place to come learn (to ski) and do tricks. There's a million golf courses around the area, but not a million ski hills or STiKS. We have potential," he said.
Bingham added that if things get more dire, he's thought about having those who enjoy the ski hill and sports academy sign a petition in support of keeping the venture alive. "It would show that they think this is a huge asset to the community, and we're worth being financed," Bingham said.
If you go
What: Fashion show debut of improved Highlands of Olympia cafe, ski operation.
When: 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 11
Where: 965 Cannongate Road
Info: (414) 429-7948
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