Otten lends a hand for Balsams Resort

BETHEL-In entering into an agreement this week with the Balsams Grand Resort, Les Otten said  that bringing the shuttered business back to life could help attract more business to the entire region, including the Bethel/Western Maine area.

“The Balsams has the ability to be a major attraction for this part of the world,” Otten said Tuesday.

A press release said the Balsams ownership group has entered into an agreement with Dixville Capital, LLC, a company owned by Otten, to establish a viable path forward for the redevelopment of the Balsams, which closed three years ago.

Closing the transaction is contingent on a number of conditions to be worked out with interested third parties, the release said. Otten said talks are preliminary, focusing on big concepts as opposed to specific details.

“I was asked initially to lend a hand,” he said in a phone interview Tuesday. “One thing led to another, and I’ve become more actively involved in the redevelopment.”

Otten said he remembered back to his earlier years as owner of Sunday River Ski Resort, when “Sunday River snowmaking attracted guests from the Balsams regularly. And people here regularly went up there. We had a good working relationship.”

He said that a mutually beneficial relationship with the Bethel area could be revived with a redeveloped Balsams.

“It can continue to be an attraction to western Maine and northern New Hampshire,” he said.

He said the timetable for moving ahead is short, but he did not wish to be specific.

In announcing the agreement, Dan Dagesse and Dan Hebert, the principals behind the Balsams Grand Resort, and who will continue as stakeholders, said,  “Les Otten has built some of the best resorts in the United States, saved Fenway Park and has made northern New England his home for the past 42 years.  Dixville’s unique and majestic location offers great potential, and this agreement represents a first step in securing a move forward for the North Country’s economy.”

The release went on to quote Otten as saying, “The opportunities at the Balsams are significant. There are few recreation sites in North America that have such strong potential for visitors over all seasons. There’s a relatively short time table for moving forward and many hurdles to clear, but preliminary discussions are promising.

“We are not prepared to discuss development plan details at this time because we are still working through fluid concepts. We are working together and combining our resources to look at creative ideas toward restoring the Balsams as a true word class resort that will create new jobs and invigorate the North Country’s economy.”

The Balsams, where the nation’s first presidential ballots are traditionally cast, closed in 2010, taking with it the 200-300 jobs it provided in a hard-hit part of the state. Dagess and Hebert bought it in 2011.

The resort, about 20 miles from the Canadian border, started as an inn in 1861.