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Cover story | Big dreams: Tourism-friendly projects proposed for Wenatchee, Lake Chelan and Leavenworth

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Developer John Sutherland's $6 million Leavenworth Adventure Park would be on this hillside at the end of town near the entrance to Tumwater Canyon just beyond the Icicle Village Resort.

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Leavenworth Adventure Park

LEAVENWORTH — The $6 million Leavenworth Adventure Park proposal would be built on 10 hillside acres above Highway 2 as it enters Tumwater Canyon.

Covering about 17,000 square feet, the park would be built in two phases, including in Phase 1 a 2,200-foot downhill alpine coaster, climbing wall, bungee trampoline and a mining sluice for children. Phase 2 would include a ropes course and possibly a via ferrata climbing path.

John Sutherland and Dave Moffett are hoping to start construction next fall and open by spring of 2020. 

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NCW — One January morning Josh Jorgensen, the general manager of Mission Ridge Ski & Board Resort, was riding a chairlift with a father and son who were in town on a ski vacation.

He said to me ‘We stayed downtown and it was awesome. The hotels are amazing, the restaurants are amazing, we love Wenatchee,’” Jorgensen said. “That’s a win. That’s a win for the community, that’s a win for our local businesses.”

Mission Ridge is pushing to soon embark on a 20-year expansion plan that will open its range of services to include other winter activities, retail shopping and overnight accommodations. Jorgensen is hoping the expansion will keep those wins coming for the resort and the community.

The Mission Ridge expansion is one of several projects, including a $6 million Leavenworth Adventure Park and a $5 million Slidewaters surfing complex in Chelan, that are hoping to capitalize on the area’s tourism industry by expanding services and drawing more eyes. 

It only makes sense that developers are doubling down on the area, said Dave Blandford, the co-chair of the Washington Tourism Alliance.

North Central Washington is a fantastic part of Washington State, one of the most beautiful areas in the state,” he said. “It has abundant recreation throughout the year and it’s relatively close to urban areas. So it’s not surprising that a number of projects are in the works that would allow people to spend more time or do more activities while there.”

The next 50 years

Mission Ridge currently contributes roughly $13.5 million to the local economy, Jorgensen said. If the expansion moves forward, the resort is hoping that number could more than double over the next 10 years.

The expansion plan is currently under review by Chelan County and the U.S. Forest Service, Jorgensen said.

But beyond its contribution to the economy, Jorgensen is hoping the expansion will bring financial stability to the resort.

As a business for 50 years, Mission Ridge has been a survivalist,” Jorgensen said. “Like a lot of our orchard friends down-valley, we’re super dependent on the weather.”

The additional draw from expanded services like Nordic skiing, snowshoeing and retails shops could help, Jorgensen said.

We need to see about 15 percent more visitation growth to be at that consistent profit level where we’re paying our fixed costs,” he said.

It’s not the first time the resort has tossed around the idea of an expansion. Proposals were considered in the 1980s and 1990s, Jorgensen said.

We looked back at the history of what had transpired here at Mission, some of the proposals from the past that had not moved forward for one one reason for another,” he said. “We really did a thorough review of the history and from that tried to form the best plan forward.”

Those plans primarily focused on expanding traditional alpine skiing areas. The current plan is focused on diversifying Mission Ridge’s services and buffing up areas like parking.

The idea of a Nordic skiing trail system has also attracted a lot of attention, Jorgensen said.

There’s a huge demand. Since we started this project, probably the single biggest positive feedback has been from the nordic skiing community,” he said. “They’re just really excited about having a trail system close to Wenatchee.”

More retail shops or restaurants could come in the future — a hotel or even a community of condos or townhouses has been considered. But the resort is focused on taking it one step at a time, Jorgensen said.

The expansion proposal as it sits right now is a huge project, it’s a 20-year project,” he said. “It’s huge and so much fun to learn what it takes to pull something like this off.”

Projects of that magnitude have the potential to offer a lot to their community, said Blandford, the co-chair of the tourism alliance.

One resort or an expansion has the ability to benefit many others that surround it,” he said. “… Everything from beverage companies to flower shops, you name it, could conceivably see an uptick in business from having a large resort in the region.”

Riding the tourism wave

Soon a visitor will be able to surf on the north shore of Lake Chelan — well, technically it will be a couple miles inland at Slidewaters Waterpark.

Owners Burke and Robert Bordner are building a surfing complex next to the water park, a staple of Chelan. 

The complex will be called Lakeside Surf and will feature a continuous surfing wave that they hope to open by Memorial Day Weekend.

They’re working with German company CityWave to design the 16-meter-wide wave pool, which Robert said will likely be the largest of its kind in the world.

I don’t think man-made or God-made there will be one bigger than ours when we open it this summer,” he said.

The new facility will allow the company to expand its season, Robert said.

It’s going to compliment Slidewaters but it’s also going to be such that it can stand on its own,” he said. “We’re designing it in such a way that it will create a longer season. The surf season could eventually grow to be eight, nine months long. Whereas Slidewaters is always three months, 100 days, summer only.”

It takes 26 lifeguards to operate Slidewaters on a busy day, plus support staff, Robert said. The surf complex will be able to operate with “just a handful.”

Since they bought the park in 2008 the pair have been looking for ways to keep up with the growth of the area, Robert said.

We see the change of the Chelan Valley. We see that more people are coming, and looking for what they want to do when they’re here,” he said.

Big improvements are expensive and take up a lot of time and energy, but the key to succeeding in the tourism industry is to not get left behind, Robert said.

We wanted to make sure we were ahead of the curve,” he said. “These takes things take time, you can’t wait until you need it next year. You have to anticipate and get out in front of it.”

Reach Reilly Kneedler at 509-661-5213 or . Follow Reilly on Twitter at @reillykneedler.