The lodge at Saddleback Mountain ski resort in Sandy River Plantation in 2017. Sun Journal file photo

SANDY RIVER PLANTATION — Many people in the Rangeley area are keeping their fingers crossed the anticipated reopening of Saddleback Mountain ski area will happen, providing needed jobs and a boost to the local economy.

Despite news Monday that the Finance Authority of Maine had approved a loan and loan insurance for a proposed sale of Saddleback, local residents know their hopes have been dashed in the past when deals have fallen through.

“I am very excited about it,”said Stephen Philbrick, chairman of the Rangeley Board of Selectmen and owner of Bald Mountain Camps. “This is going to be a big help for the future of northern Franklin County. This is certainly going to bring a boost to the economic wheel.”

Philbrick said he looks forward to Saddleback’s reopening and to its again providing jobs lost when it closed in 2015.

“We are very, very happy about this,” he said.

Evelyn Beaulieu, town clerk and manager in Sandy River Plantation, said she would have no comment on the possible sale until she has all of the necessary paperwork.

“I don’t say anything to anyone until we have the actual paperwork in hand,” she said. “It’s true. We have been let down quite a few times before.”

When the resort was operating, it employed many people and made the economy much better, Beaulieu said.

Andy Shepard, who will be the general manager of Saddleback, said Tuesday afternoon the sale is expected to close Friday.

This sign hung on the side of a shed at Saddleback Mountain ski resort in Sandy River Plantation in 2017. Sun Journal file photo

FAME on Monday approved leveraged loan insurance of $2.5 million on a $12.5 million loan by Arctaris Impact Investors, LP to Saddleback Community Loan Fund (Arctaris). FAME also approved a $1 million direct loan to Arctaris as part of a financing package, which totals $2.5 million, according to information posted on Saddleback Maine’s Facebook page.

The Maine Rural Development Authority has also approved a $1 million loan to Arctaris Saddleback Co. in December. It is part of a $23.5 million funding package that includes private equity,  new market tax credits, community loans and community grants for the acquisition of the ski resort at Saddleback Mountain.

The sale and reopening of the resort is expected to create 71 full-time jobs and 134 seasonal jobs. The mountain, the eighth-highest elevation in Maine at 4,121 feet, boasts 66 trails and five lifts.

Archie “Bill” and Irene Berry of Farmington and family bought Saddleback in 2003 and invested $40 million. A deal to sell the ski resort to an Australia-based company in 2017 fell through.

Arctaris officials have said they plan to make improvements to the resort.

“In addition to helping Arctaris, a national impact investment firm, to purchase the mountain and resume operations at the ski resort, the financing is expected to benefit area business and help stimulate the economy,” according to Saddleback’s Facebook message.

“It would certainly make for a better real estate market for both rentals and real estate,” said Ginny Nuttall, who owns and is a broker at Noyes Real Estate Agency in Rangeley.

“I think it will be very good for the Rangeley economy,” Nuttall said. “We have our fingers crossed. It will be very good for local businesses and local employment.”

Others in town government said the possible sale of Saddleback comes as encouraging news.

“Everybody here is excited,” said Traci Lavoie, Rangeley assistant town manager.

Rangeley Fire Rescue Chief Michael Bacon, meanwhile, said he was “excitedly optimistic.”

“If it comes to fruition,” he said, “it will benefit the whole region.”


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