The Casper City Council on Tuesday approved a request to apply for a $500,000 grant from the Wyoming Business Council to pay in part for lights at the Hogadon Ski Area for night skiing.

Despite the assurances that the project will not cost the city any money, one council member said a similar promise was made with the defunct ice arena at the Casper Events Center.

"I'm going to vote for it because of the children involved," Dallas Laird said.

"But I have to say fiscally, Mr. City Manager, I don't want to see us have to pay a dime, with this represented to us that we don't have to pay a dime," Laird said.

The nonprofit "Friends of Hogadon" received tentative approval from the council in March to proceed with raising $1.5 million to install lights at the Hogadon Ski Area for night skiing, according to the agenda for the meeting.

John Lutz with the Friends of Hogadon told the council during the public hearing that the group has received pledges totaling about $750,000. A grant from the Wyoming Business Council would bring the project close to full funding, Lutz said.

The total project for equipment, maintenance, electricity and at least one new city employee for three years would cost about $1.4 million, he said. Of the total, $180,000 would pay for the extra park staff for three years, he added.

City of Casper
City of Casper

Lutz's daughter, Grace Lutz, said she is on the ski team at Kelly Walsh High School and night skiing would greatly benefit her fellow students and area residents who would like to hit the slopes after work. "It would bring the community together."

Another supporter of the project, Tim Cortez, said Hogadon would gain revenues from lift, food and beverage sales. That would help offset the city's subsidy of the ski area by several hundred thousand dollars a year.

And if the night ski project doesn't work?

"After three years, if we're losing money on the light project, we just won't turn on the lights any more," Cortez said.

Laird said the promise sounds uneasily similar to the one earlier in the decade made by promoters of the Wold ice arena project at the Casper Events Center, which was supposed to be profitable but wasted $2 million of city money.

City Manager Carter Napier responded, saying the city is not putting up two-thirds of the cost. In fact, it's putting up nothing, he said.

If approved, the WBC grant would be matched by the money raised by the Friends of Hogadon, and there's no promise of city support if the project doesn't pan out in three years, Napier said.

Council member Charlie Powell said the resolution is only for the application.

Bob Hopkins said there's no guarantee the Wyoming Business Council will approve the grant. If it does, the final authority rests with the Wyoming Loan and Investment Board, comprised of the five statewide elected officials.

Mike Huber said Hogadon is a jewel of the Casper community, and the kind of amenity attractive to people who want to move here.

Council member Chris Walsh cast the only "no" vote because the city is raising a hope that may fall if the lights are shut off after three years.

"I appreciate the enthusiasm that everybody has on the light project," Walsh said.

"I don't think we'll sustain it," he said. "If it's something that we will not maintain, I don't think it's fair to put out that expectation."

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