Utah taxpayers will help build a $35M lodge at Sundance. Here’s who will benefit.

‘This is exactly why we were created,’ a MIDA board member said of the taxpayer-funded agency’s newest project

(Bethany Baker | The Salt Lake Tribune) MIDA has agreed to help Sundance Mountain Resort build a new base lodge and ADA-compliant inn.

In an unusual approach, a taxpayer-funded development agency will help pay for a new $35 million lodge at Sundance — while leaving oversight of the project in the hands of Utah County officials.

Utah’s Military Installation Development Authority, or MIDA, is empowered by state law to take over land use and planning decisions when it creates a new project area. MIDA is designed to assist with development of military land or land that benefits military members.

But as MIDA’s governing board voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the Sundance inn — in partnership with the private owners of Sundance Mountain Resort and Utah County — it agreed the county will retain control of the land on which it is built.

The board’s approval was the final public hurdle to more direct action, which will include planning and development of an inn with more than 60 rooms that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Being in a MIDA project area gives the owners of Sundance — Storyteller Canyon Investments — access to lower-cost public financing. The inn primarily will hold Sundance Mountain Resort guests.

But with the financial support from taxpayers, the private owners also will create a veterans program and offer it — lodging included — for free to wounded veterans, according to a news release sent shortly after Tuesday’s meeting.

“I love everything about this proposal,” said MIDA board member Mike Ostermiller. “This is exactly why we were created and is exactly our purpose.”

MIDA will help finance the project with public bonds, and use a portion of the project’s increased tax revenue to pay off the debt.

Utah County will keep 100% of the base level of tax revenue now being collected, and 25% of any increase in incremental tax revenue generated by the new development. The county also will maintain control of municipal services.

Sundance still will need a “significant private investment in capital” to see the project through, said Paul Morris, MIDA’s executive director. The entire project, which includes infrastructure and “various other improvements that will be a direct benefit to the Project Area,” will cost an estimated $35 million, according to draft plans. MIDA will finance “the hard costs associated with Sundance Inn construction,” the draft plan says.

MIDA will start issuing bonds to fund the project in the spring, according to a project timeline presented at Tuesday’s meeting. A project budget anticipates that the inn will start generating extra tax revenue in 2027.

Veterans will be referred to the program from the George E. Whalen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salt Lake City, which is included in draft plans as the project’s “associated military land.”

“We believe Utah, and Sundance Mountain Resort specifically, has the opportunity to continue to assist the wounded and injured veteran community with year-round programming that will evolve with the veteran population to assist with their physical and emotional recovery and healing,” said Bill Jensen, a Sundance Mountain Resort investor.

Jensen and his wife, Cheryl, co-founded the Vail Veterans Program, on which Sundance’s program will be modeled, according to a project plan draft.

“This type of programming is not a vacation club, but a commitment to wounded and injured veterans and their families ... to provide a variety of healing opportunities rooted in the mountains to build confidence and reinforce purposeful lives,” Jensen said.

Utah County approved the Interlocal Cooporation Agreement with MIDA on Nov. 8. Commissioner Brandon Gordon did not immediately respond to The Tribune’s request for comment Tuesday, but said at the board meeting that the county was excited to “see the project go forward.”

“I think it’s a great project,” Gordon said. “I want to highlight how grateful and excited we are.”

Storyteller Canyon Investments, the project’s principal stakeholder, is affiliated with two parent companies, Broadreach Capital Partners and Cedar Capital Partners, which bought Sundance Mountain Resort in December 2020 from actor-filmmaker Robert Redford.

Sundance’s inn is the second ski resort project MIDA has agreed to help fund. The authority is also financing the Mayflower Resort, a new ski area near Park City currently under construction. Its first project focuses on developing land on and near Hill Air Force Base, at Falcon Hill Aerospace Research Park.

It might look strange, Morris said Tuesday, for MIDA — created by the state of Utah in 2007 — to get involved with another ski resort, but Sundance’s new inn fulfills the authority’s duty to help build military support programs.

“We’re excited to present this proposal ... [and] to do something really special for our veterans,” Morris said.

Shannon Sollitt is a Report for America corps member covering business accountability and sustainability for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.