A long abandoned lodge in northwest Wisconsin could soon see new life.
According to James Bolen, director of the Cable Area Chamber of Commerce, we're closer than ever to seeing a new Telemark Resort and he hopes its one that rivals the Telemark of old.
"Back in the day it was the largest employer in northern Wisconsin," he said.
In the 1970s, the resort thrived as its founder Tony Wise expanded the facilities and started the American Birkiebeiner race, which to this day begins on its grounds but since Wise sold the property in 1984, the resort has struggled to live up to its former glory.
The resort has gone through a series of owners, finally closing for good in 2013.
Under its current ownership, a Bayfield County family, the Telemark Lodge sits empty, but according to Bolen perhaps not for long.
"We're literally just about two steps away from this being a reality," he said.
After four years of vacancy, the Telemark Lodge has a likely buyer in Florida-based HK Hospitality, which owns a number of properties throughout the United States.
There are two conditions. One is an independent feasibility study showing, their business model will be profitable. Bolen expects those results back as early as this week.
The other condition involves the state legislature to declare the area a Tax Increment Financing District.
"[That] would essentially allow the investors to self-fund the last portion of this project and if we can get that accomplished this deal is a go," Bolen said.
According to Bolen, Wisconsin Sen. Jerry Petrowske is currently drafting the bill to make that possible and Bolen expects positive results from the feasibility study. That's because, though the lodge has been empty since 2013, the property has seen plenty of action.
Bolen said if those conditions are met, the sale could happen as early as October with deconstruction of the old Telemark lodge beginning in November and construction on a newer, more energy efficient Telemark lodge could start this spring.
Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival Director Gary Crandall is hosting one of the many events that pass through the Telemark this weekend.
"It's a great special events venue, you have ample parking, you have power, you have trails that you can use and you have a conveniently enthusiastic, selfless volunteer base in the community," he said.
Crandall's expecting 3,000 riders this year and said having accommodations like the Telemark Lodge would provide lodging, food and beverages and other comforts that would make hosting an event like that easier.
Between the Birkiebeiner, the Fat Tire Festival, the Lumberjack World Championships, and a number of other trail events, Bolen said he believes there area more than enough events to pack the lodge for a number of weeks in the year. Plus,Bolen said the Paralympics, which has hosted ski competitions at Telemark has expressed interest in hosting a World Cup at the lodge every other year if the facilities come back.
Still some have their doubts about these potential buyers. As someone formerly involved in its sale attempts, Crandall said he understands the benefits a reborn Telemark can bring but he also understands how hard that rebirth can be.
"Not to liken it to raising the Titanic but it has some similarities," he said.
While, all admit it will be an uphill climb but many are still happy to see a path to new life for a lodge at the heart of northwest Wisconsin.