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Deal reached on Telemark Lodge

The Telemark Lodge near Cable, Wis., has been purchased by HK Hospitality Management, which plans to reopen the lodge in 2019. (News Tribune file photo)

A reborn Telemark Lodge will open sometime in the first quarter of 2019, said the co-owner of the company that is purchasing it.

In time for the 2019 American Birkebeiner?

"We hope so," said Jim Kelley, the "K" in HK Hospitality Management, a Florida company that announced on Friday it had reached a purchase agreement with Mount Telemark Partners, which had purchased the landmark property near Cable for $926,000 in a sheriff's auction four years ago.

Shuttered in the spring of 2013 after years of financial woes, the property is in for a makeover once the deal closes, Kelley said. The closing is expected to occur shortly after the new year.

The main building with its 55-foot-tall fireplace won't be touched, he said, but the two guest room wings will be demolished, work that's planned for this winter.

"We want to rebuild it into the style of today's traveler," Kelley said in a telephone interview on Monday. "A good resort needs to adapt to the marketplace today."

Kelley and his partner Steve Hedberg have big ideas for Telemark Lodge, announcing in a news release plans for a 1,500-acre year-round facility, reintroducing downhill skiing, enhancing cross-country ski trails in partnership with the Birkebeiner Foundation, lake frontage for water sports and expanded golf facilities.

They plan to make a stay at Telemark "truly experiential" with festivals, weekends featuring famed chefs, award-winning recording artists and movie stars commenting as their performances are screened, according to the news release.

They plan to invest about $47 million in reopening the facility, Wisconsin Public Radio reported earlier this year. James Bolen, executive director of the Cable Area Chamber of Commerce, told WPR that the remodeled lodge would create 120 full-time jobs and about 40 to 60 part-time positions.

Originally built for $6 million and opened in December 1972, the lodge fell on hard times in the mid-1980s and underwent a string of closings followed by attempts to revitalize it. The lodge long has been associated with the American Birkebeiner, which started in 1973 with 35 skiers and grew to become the largest cross-country ski race in North America, annually attracting thousands to Northwestern Wisconsin.

Inconsistent winter weather has plagued the Birkebeiner, though, and in February the race was canceled because of lack of snow. But plans are in place to install snowmaking equipment along the route, said Kelley, who is a Michigan native.