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January 28, 2020

FAME financing approval paves way for Saddleback sale, reopening

Courtesy / Saddleback Saddleback Mountain ski resort, seen here before it closed in 2015, is expected to open for the 2020-21 ski season after getting loan insurance approval from FAME this week.

The Finance Authority of Maine's board of directors Monday paved the way for the long-awaited sale of Saddleback Mountain ski resort, approving leveraged loan insurance as well as a direct loan to developers Artaris Impact Investors LP.

FAME agreed to insure of 20% (or $2.5 million) on a $12.5 million loan by Arctaris to the Saddleback Community Loan Fund, as well as a $1 million FAME direct loan as part of the Boston-based investors' $23.5 million financing package. The loan is in addition to a $1 million Maine Rural Development Authority loan approved in December.

The money will allow Arctaris to complete a purchase agreement and get the ski resort operating, creating 71 full-time and 134 seasonal jobs, according to a FAME news release. The new owners plan to open for the 2020-21 ski season. The current owners, the Berry family of Farmington, announced plans to sell Saddleback to Arctaris in November. The resort's been closed since 2015.

"Arctaris is grateful for the support of state and local financing partners," Jonathan Tower, Arctaris managing partner, said in the release. "[Arctaris] plans to revitalize the mountain resort and provide 200 full-time and seasonal jobs, which will help stimulate the local economy and the state of Maine as a whole,”

The $23.5 million funding package includes private equity, New Market Tax Credits, community loans and community grants for the acquisition of the ski resort at Saddleback. Arctaris has also raised approximately $2 million in private donations from condominium owners, philanthropists and the community at large.

After the business acquisition costs, the balance will be used for renovations, as well as facility upgrades, new equipment, primarily lifts and snowmaking machines, the release said.

The previous owners made a number of improvements over the past several years, including a new base lodge and lifts; expanded snowmaking; a new grooming fleet; and increased four-season destination programs for weddings and other functions. 

“We are pleased to help re-start this historic and beloved Maine ski mountain and to help stimulate economic development in Western Maine,” said FAME CEO Bruce Wagner. “We know how important this mountain’s success is to the local population and economy, as well as to many others who love to recreate in all seasons in the Rangeley area.”

Heather Johnson, commissioner of the the state's Department of Economic and Community Development, said the reopening of the resort will benefit the state as a whole. "Tourism is one of the top economic drivers in our state and we are excited to see that the revitalization of Saddleback will bring more visitors to this beautiful area. In addition, outdoor recreation is a vital part of Maine’s economy, as well as important for the public health of our communities.”

FAME’s Commercial Loan Insurance Program insures a portion of a loan to a business made by a participating financial institution or investment firm. It may mean the the difference between a business getting a loan or never getting the opportunity to start a business, the release said. FAME loan policy sets a maximum leveraged insurance guarantee of $2.5 million.

Saddleback Mountain is one of three ski resorts in Maine with a 2,000-foot vertical drop — the other two are Sugarloaf, in Carrabassett Valley, and Sunday River, in Newry. Saddleback is one of seven New England mountains with a top-lift elevation of more than 4,000 feet, and third in size in Maine as far as number of trails. The resort has five lifts, 66 trails and a 7-acre terrain park, and plans to expand more than 20 acres by the 2020-21 ski season.

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