The Lodge at Vail originally a "white elephant’
“It’s hard to believe that the development would spread downvalley as far as it did,” he said. “One of the things we did right, or maybe wrong, was to go to the county commissioners to get some countywide zoning put in. They were never able to go for it. I wonder what would have happened today if that zoning had been approved.”
Lewis was also involved in the sale of The Lodge at Vail. Part of the original arrangement with First National Bank when it loaned the money to start Vail was that Vail had to build a lodging facility with 60 rooms in time for the opening. This goal was accomplished, but The Lodge soon became known as the white elephant of Vail because it was not economical to operate – it lost more than $100,000 a year for the first five years. In some years, the debt was even higher.
“I made a deal with Joe Staufer, the manager at that time, with an incentive program for him,” Lewis recalls. “People would say an incentive program is based on profits. Joe told me it couldn’t make money. I told him I would give him an incentive program based on him getting the loss under $110,000 a year. Vail Associates had an agreement with a price that they could buy The Lodge from Lodge Associates, the partnership that built The Lodge. When they had a chance to buy it, they would end up with a $500,000 shortfall. It was going to cost them more to buy it than what they could sell it for.
So I went to Merrill Robang of Northwestern Life in Minneapolis, who had the mortgage. I told him I had a wonderful opportunity for him. I wanted to borrow another $500,000 for the company so that we could buy The Lodge at Vail. He told me I was out of my mind. I told him it was a great deal – it was the only place we could get 25 percent on our money. If we were losing $125,000 a year, we could make back our money in four years. I was trying to get him to fund The Lodge, knowing that we were going to lose on it, so that we could close the deal, buy it, and sell it again.
The Lodge was poorly designed. It was the first hotel ever designed by Fitzhugh Scott. The hallway was on two levels, and you couldn’t push the maids’ carts because of the steps. The walls were thin. They consisted of 4-inch brick with 1 inch of plaster on each side, but it wouldn’t deaden the noise. The wall sockets were lined up next to one another so that if the phone rang next door, you would answer it in your room. However, through the years and after extensive remodeling, it became the Broadmoor of Vail. No pun intended, but it was sold to Ross Davis, who converted it into condos and retained the Broadmoor as managers. This lasted three years until it was sold again. The Lodge was the hub of the town and was very important to the entire community.
Editor’s Note: In a continued effort to help the community understand its roots, the Vail Daily for a second time is serializing Dick Hauserman’s “The Inventors of Vail.” This is the 76th installment, an excerpt from chapter 11, “The Corporate Team.” The book is available at Verbatim Booksellers, The Bookworm of Edwards, Pepi’s Sports, Gorsuch Ltd. and The Rucksack, as well as other retailers throughout the valley. Hauserman can be contacted by phone at 926-2895 or by mail at P.O. Box 1410, Edwards CO, 81632.
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