Kah-Nee-Ta closure date arrives
The closure of Kah-Nee-Ta Resort and Spa, a fixture on the Warm Springs Reservation, which dates back to the mid-1960s and early 1970s, was officially set to take place Wednesday, Sept. 5.
First announced in July, the closure plans were formalized by a vote of the Warm Springs Tribal Council on Aug. 28. Although eight of the 11 council members were present, only the three female members voted to take action to close the resort, as previously recommended by the Kah-Nee-Ta Board of Directors.
In a press release on the council's action, Chief Operating Officer Alyssa Macy noted, "After lengthy discussions and no action on presented options, Councilwoman Carina Miller made the motion to move forward with closure of the facility on Sept. 5."
"It is irresponsible to continue pouring money into an enterprise that has demonstrated over many years that it cannot generate enough revenue to cover expenses," said Miller, whose motion was supported by two other councilors — Val Switzler and Bridgett McConville — with similar concerns.
Five council members, including Chairman Eugene "Austin" Greene Jr., abstained.
The closure affects the Kah-Nee-Ta Lodge, Village and Golf Course, and approximately 146 staffers, who were notified 60 days in advance that closure was imminent. The 60-day notice was required by the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Act of 1988, for employers with 100 or more employees. Interim General Manager Marie Kay Williams filed the notice with the state and praised the workers for their "hard work and dedication."
The tribes' executive management team, along with the Kah-Nee-Ta board, is already taking steps toward closure.
Before the closure was announced, the Kah-Nee-Ta Board of Directors had been exploring options to keep the resort open. In July, Chairman Jim Manion said that the board had been working to find a new operator, and was optimistic that an investor would be found before the closure date.
Since 2017, the board had presented numerous possibilities to the Tribal Council, including a trial season of heli-skiing on Mount Jefferson, multiday lodge-based fishing trips along the Deschutes River, trophy game hunting, and the development of a culture and wellness center, none of which was approved to move forward.
"The board also included permitting areas on Mount Jefferson for limited commercial film and photography production," the release noted. "The permits would have generated revenue for the tribe and resort, as well as jobs and other opportunities for tribal members."
"Other tribal nations have departments that manage commercial production, including the Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation Office who permit commercial film and photography production for Navajo Nation lands," the release continued. "This branded permit concept was previously presented in 2017 to generate revenue for the scholarship fund and infrastructure development, but did not receive enough support to move forward."
As Kah-Nee-Ta's staff finalizes an inventory of assets, the staff will turn the inventory over to the tribes.
"The secretary treasurer/CEO and chief operations officer are responsible for integrating the closure costs into the tribal budget and managing the assets moving forward," the notice reported. "Residents of the Hamlets have been informed that their housing is secured through Dec. 31. It is estimated that the closure costs will be up to $720,000 annually."
"The shuttering costs are significant and will put a burden on an already challenging budget year," said Greene.
Vice Chairman Charles Calica added,"While we have now set a date for closure, it does not prevent the Tribal Council from pursuing options for financing and the facility. This will be necessary to reduce the costs to the tribal government."
Over the Labor Day weekend, numerous activities were held at Kah-Nee-Ta, including a horse parade and salmon bake at the lodge on Saturday.