Spirit Mountain executive director announces resignationRenee Mattson will be leaving her job at the end of May.
By: News Tribune staff, Duluth News Tribune
Renee Mattson, the executive director of the Spirit Mountain recreation area, will be leaving her job at the end of May. She said her husband, Terry Mattson, the former president of Visit Duluth, is pursuing a job out of the region and she is following him.
“It’s an emotional decision,” she said Wednesday morning. Mattson has been at Spirit Mountain for nine years. Mattson replaced 18-year director Rick Certano in 2005.
Terry Mattson left tourism group Visit Duluth in December.
Renee Mattson said she is staying on the next few months to help get a bonding request through the state legislative session that begins next month. Spirit Mountain has a budget due to the city by the end of April. She plans to help in the transition to a new director.
Mattson said the highlight of her tenure was completing a comprehensive plan for Spirit Mountain in 2008. More than 60 percent of that plan has come to fruition in the past five years, she said. The area has transformed to a year-round destination.
Mattson said last year, when a new chalet opened below the ski runs, that a total of $13 million had been spent since 2004 to update the area. The investments include a zip line, a coaster ride, mini-golf course and tubing park. A new lift and the chalet are the most recent investments.
Mattson estimates about a $40 million annual impact on the Duluth economy as a result of Spirit Mountain visitors.
David Montgomery, chief administrative officer for the city of Duluth, said Mattson will be difficult to replace.
“She brought an energy and vibrancy to Spirit Mountain and a real focus on direction,” he said.
Spirit Mountain is run by a board and reports to the city for budget issues since part of its operating money comes from city tourism taxes.
“She did more than just add things to the operation, which was critical for them. Renee expanded the season,” Montgomery said. “Spirit Mountain still obviously needs a good ski season to be successful, but she created a whole other revenue stream that helped to smooth out the financial peaks and valleys for them.”
He said Mattson has worked at the forefront to bring a new pumping system to Spirit Mountain that would boost its snowmaking output by drawing water directly out of St. Louis Bay. By disconnecting its snow guns from city water, the ski hill would free up additional capacity, opening the door to new economic development opportunities in West Duluth, Montgomery said.
Funding for the new water system recently was included in Gov. Mark Dayton’s bonding bill proposal.
Spirit Mountain is seeking $3.4 million in state bonding money. Another $1.1 million would come from Spirit Mountain’s budget and from grants.
A better system would allow for much more cost-effective snowmaking, Mattson predicts.
“It will change the game here,” she said.
“She has been a driver, a builder,” Montgomery said. “She had a vision of what Spirit Mountain could be, and she will leave with her mark all over Spirit Mountain.”