School could relocate to Utah
Unless something miraculous happens in the next few days, odds are the Crested Butte Academy will not open its school year in Crested Butte this coming August. The school’s ownership group is currently negotiating to find a new facility in Park City, Utah.
The school’s owner, Gary Garland, admitted that things were “up in the air right now and we are looking for a home. Chances are it will be somewhere other than Crested Butte.”
Garland wouldn’t say much about the situation but did say he and the two other owners of the Academy, who control the school under Mountain Sports Academy LLC, are trying “to work something out. We aren’t prepared to announce anything yet because nothing is final,” he said Wednesday morning.
Garland explained that as of mid-June the Academy would have to leave their current home in the Elevation Hotel. “We have spent a lot of time looking all over Crested Butte for a facility that would work for a school,” he said. “We just couldn’t find a place that would work here. We even looked at the old Whiterock Avenue campus but couldn’t afford to bring it up to standards and make it work. If you can think of a place that works here let me know.”
The idea of settling down is one that appeals to the Academy owners and staff. “We are tired of doing this thing piecemeal,” Garland said. “We are looking for a long term plan that addresses the growth potential of the school and gives us some long term stability for the Academy. It can’t happen in Crested Butte. We are trying to find stability which the Academy desperately needs and it’s simply never had it.”
Garland’s group took over the Academy earlier this year, when it purchased the school from Cay Club Companies, a Florida-based real estate company which had purchased the school in 2007 and promised a partnership with IMG Academies and funds for the cash-strapped school. But Cay Club informed Crested Butte Academy headmaster Graham Frey a few months after the purchase that they were planning on closing the school doors.
The Crested Butte Academy was housed last winter at the Elevation Hotel in Mt. Crested Butte, which is owned by Cay Club partner SunVest. The property is managed by Crested Butte Mountain Resort.
Frey said moving the Academy from the Crested Butte area would have a huge impact on the valley. “Of the 70 students we had last winter, about 50 were boarding students and the rest were day students,” he said. “We have about 40 full and part time employees between coaches, teachers, instructors. We figured that between $6 and $10 million in real estate transactions could be credited to the Academy when people bought houses after their kids started attending the school. We represent about $2 million a year in multi-layer business that comes when people visit and buy lift tickets, eat at the local restaurants and buy stuff.”
Frey said the Academy has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the Rocky Mountain News and several other international and national publications. “The school has had not just an economic impact but a publicity impact,” he said.
“Everyone here loves Crested Butte but it is hard to compete with other schools like the Academy,” he explained. “Private schools are a choice for families. We are there academically and athletically, but we just don’t have the facilities here.”
The Crested Butte Academy has been in financial turmoil since December 2003 when the board of trustees announced that the school was declaring Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The community rallied behind the Academy and a cash infusion from the private sector was coupled with backing from the Gunnison County commissioners and the Crested Butte Town Council.
The Crested Butte Academy is a fully accredited, college preparatory boarding and day school specializing in snowboarding, alpine racing, freeride skiing, Nordic skiing, and running. The Academy has existed since 1993 and this spring 15 seniors graduated from the school.