Ted Waddell | Democrat
CRAIG PASSANTE, OWNER of Holiday Mountain Ski and Fun Park with Shalom E. Lamm, a Manhattan-basked developer and representative of Black Creek Development of Bloomingburg.
Water park resort envisioned at Holiday Mountain
By Ted Waddell
BRIDGEVILLE A large indoor all-season water park and resort hotel is under consideration for possible construction at Holiday Mountain Ski and Fun Park outside Monticello.
In 2000, Craig Passante, whose family built the Villa Roma Resort in Callicoon 39 years ago, purchased the ski center from the Town of Thompson, and even after it was hard hit by the Flood of 2005, expanded the 160-acre site into a fun center.
A few months ago Passante was introduced by Town of Thompson Supervisor Tony Cellini to Shalom E. Lamm, a Manhattan-based developer and holdings managing member of Black Creek Development of Bloomingburg, .
In the intervening months, the local business entrepreneur and the developer formulated a plan to create a 400-some suite resort hotel and a 60,000-80,000 square-foot indoor water park, complete with restaurants and a winter ski area, and for the other three seasons in the Catskills, recreational opportunities such as alpine sliding, zip lines, mountain biking and paintball.
But according to both Passante and Lamm, it’s all still a vision, that may or may not become a reality.
The businessman and developer made it crystal clear that while both share a vision of what the destination water park and resort could be, it’s far from a done deal.
“It’s all about a vision,” said Lamm, who acquired and fixed up the old Wurtsboro Airport and is proposing to create The Falls at Black Creek in Forestburgh, advertised as “a world class golf community and country club” on 207 acres.
Lamm bought the ca. 1927 airport in 2007, and since then has pumped more than $1 million into bringing the oldest glider airport in the United States back to life after it had fallen into a state of disrepair and neglect.
“We have a shared vision of what the potential is here at this very unique property,” said Lamm of the joint venture with Passante, as they consider turning the ski and fun center into a $100-million facility, modeled after successful indoor water parks.
“It’s a big vision that has a long, long way to go before a shovel is in the ground… [and] we could never build this project today because the banks are shut. The impression that we are forging ahead regardless is nonsense.”
Lamm said that after meeting Passante, “we put Craig’s vision on steroids” and expanded the concept that may cost “north of a hundred million.”
“It has to be big enough to be a destination so exciting that people will get in their cars and go to it,” said Passante. “My family has one of the last resorts in the Catskills, and my family believed in the tourism business and still does.”
Lamm said he expects that it will be at least a year or maybe never before they approach the town planning board.
“It could be a year, three years or never,” he said. “We don’t have a clue if in reality this will work. We want to downplay it. This is not a done deal. We’re both businessmen with a real serious profit motive, but you have to couple that with the rights and responsibilities [to the community] that go along with that.”
Sullivan County has long had its fair share of developers in various shades who’ve touted their own ideas of saving the county by bringing back the heydays of the resort era through casinos or other endeavors.
“I think the people who are skeptical are absolutely right developers have a bad reputation for a good reason,” said Lamm, who pointed out the recent airport restoration as an example of doing right by a local community.
Passante recalled attending hotel association meetings with his father Marty.
“They would fight and bicker amongst themselves, and he would try like hell to bring them all together, and not bite each other’s backs,” he said. “I ain’t afraid it say it, [but] they just didn’t get it that they all had to work together.”
“I asked him that if they all went out of business, wouldn’t that mean more for us, and he reminded me, ‘I’d rather be the best of ten than the best of one,’” said Passante.