Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Huffman: Times are tough, should improve

Resort director says airport, new hotel are keys to the future

Express Staff Writer

Wally Huffman, Sun Valley Co.'s former general manager and new director of resort development, acknowledged that times are tough for the resort and the Wood River Valley.

"We're kind of in a crisis, generated by forces we may not have a lot of control over, but we can acknowledge and concentrate on the things that we can control," Huffman said.

At a meeting hosted by Wood River Economic Partnership, a group that promotes business in the valley, Huffman outlined three major issues that he said could help with the current economic downturn.

First, he touted the importance of Friedman Memorial Airport's location in Hailey. He was adamant that if the airport is moved, it remain in the Bellevue Triangle rather than farther east along U.S. Highway 20.

Huffman's concern is a lack of accessibility to Sun Valley and that a move farther away would prevent airlines from continuing service into the area. He said he fears that travelers will be unwilling to pay a premium to fly into the valley rather than to Twin Falls or Boise.

"If the airport moves away, we'll probably say goodbye to Horizon," he said.

Horizon Air provides daily service to and from Seattle.

Last week Huffman and other Sun Valley Co. employees met with Horizon in Boise. Huffman said Horizon officials told him that they would continue all service to Sun Valley only on the condition that Sun Valley Co. and other local groups continue to subsidize the service.

Second, Huffman encouraged the annexation into Ketchum of the resort's property at River Run to develop a hotel at the base of Bald Mountain. He said more hotel beds closer to town would be ideal for stimulating Ketchum's economy. He did say, however, that even in the best conditions completion of the hotel would take at least four years.

Lastly, Huffman noted the importance of the new Sun Valley Pavilion. He said he wants to use the pavilion to attract a different kind of crowd and to engage the community in a fun and fulfilling way.

"Our one new thing, the unknown promise, is the pavilion," Huffman said. "The Kenny Loggins concert already sold 200 rooms."

Despite Huffman's concerns about the economy, he did say things should turn up.

"Sun Valley is going to have a poor June, a good July, a better August and an undetermined September," he said. "Things are not dire, but we've lost a couple of huge business groups in June."

Della Sentilles:

Kenny Loggins plays to full house

Women were swooning when Kenny Loggins took his wireless microphone into the Sun Valley Pavilion seats. On Saturday, Loggins played a 90-minute plus concert at the Sun Valley Pavilion, which holds 1,561 seats, most of which were filled. The concert sold 1,473 tickets.

The show also drew fans to the pavilion lawn, which had an obstructed view of the stage but good sound. The pavilion was well covered and prepared for rain showers, which occurred for a short period of time during the performance but did not interrupt the show.

Loggins played all his well-known tunes, including a Loggins and Messina favorite, "Return to Pooh Corner," and his hit movie theme songs, "Danger Zone," "Footloose" and "I'm Alright," as well as his hit recording with Michael McDonald, "This Is It." Several more recognizable songs also had the entire pavilion singing.

The Sun Valley Pavilion will continue a summer of concerts with this weekend's Acoustic Music Festival, which will feature The Duhks and Keb' Mo' as headlining acts.

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