Whistler Blackcomb Holdings Inc. Announces Whistler Blackcomb Renaissance Long-Term Strategic Plan

  • Over $345 million planned to be invested in three phases, further leveraging the Company's on-mountain and base infrastructure for both new and enhanced four-season revenue-producing customer experiences

  • Exciting new weather-independent experiences, including the Watershed, a world-class indoor water-based adventure centre at the upper base on Blackcomb Mountain

  • New on-mountain summer and winter attractions, including: a four-season mountain coaster; a new outdoor tree-top ropes course and air-based activities; electric ATVs and snowmobiles for children; night skiing facilities; a sightseeing suspension bridge connecting the peaks of Whistler Mountain; the expansion of the Whistler Mountain Bike Park at Creekside; and expanded hiking trails, among others

  • Revitalization of both Blackcomb's lower and upper bases, including two high end real estate developments

  • Investment subject to satisfaction of certain conditions, including governmental approvals, the renegotiation of the Company's master development agreements and master plans and negotiation of a proposed business partnership with local First Nations

 

WHISTLER, BC, April 5, 2016 /CNW/ - Whistler Blackcomb Holdings Inc. (TSX: WB) (the "Company") today announced details of its plans for Whistler Blackcomb Renaissance ("Renaissance"), the largest and most exciting investment in the Company's history.  Renaissance will see over $345 million invested in three phases in new weather-independent experiences, on-mountain improvements and real estate developments with the objective of accelerating the Company's vision of becoming the number one mountain resort in the world to play, to work and to invest.  These investments will further solidify and enhance the Company's reputation as one of the world's greatest four-season mountain resorts and will build on its year-round appeal to all guests, particularly families. 

Renaissance includes three phases of investment that will add new, year-round attractions and activities, see major on-mountain winter and summer improvements, and revitalize Blackcomb's upper and lower base areas. 

"Whistler Blackcomb Renaissance is the most progressive investment in our history and will leverage our tremendous success building our non-ski business.  Renaissance will further diversify our revenue and enhance the activities available for our guests while elevating Whistler Blackcomb's core skiing, mountain biking and sightseeing experiences and continuing our evolution as one of the industry's leading four-season mountain resorts," says Dave Brownlie, the Company's President and Chief Executive Officer. "This is a very exciting growth initiative that, we expect, will increase year-round visitation to Whistler, insulate our resort from variable weather conditions, and strengthen Whistler's position as one of the premier mountain resort destinations in the world."

The Company expects the three phases of Renaissance will include:

Phase One:  An estimated $90 - $100 million investment in new mountain adventure experiences designed to redefine how guests play at Whistler Blackcomb.  The Company expects phase one to bring the following new attractions and amenities to Whistler:

  • The Watershed, a year-round, indoor adventure center focusing on water-based play located at Blackcomb's upper base. The Company envisions the Watershed as a 163,000 square foot facility featuring activities like waterslides, the latest deep water surf simulator technology, cliff jumping and rock climbing experiences, a wave pool, hot and cold pools, bowling, food & beverage facilities and retail amenities, as well as other weather-independent activities;

  • A new high-speed lift to replace the Magic Chair and connect Blackcomb's upper and lower bases;

  • A year-round mountain coaster, a tree-top ropes course, and ATV and snowmobile activities for kids;

  • New snow school learning zones, a night skiing zone, and enhanced snowmaking on Blackcomb Mountain; and

  • Major improvements to Whistler Blackcomb's existing sightseeing, hiking and mountain biking experiences, with the addition of a suspension bridge and viewing platforms at the peak of Whistler Mountain, and an expansion of the Whistler Mountain Bike Park into the Creekside zone, including 50 kilometers of new downhill mountain biking trails.

The Company anticipates Renaissance phase one will position Whistler Blackcomb to welcome new ski and non-ski visitors and generate meaningful incremental revenue and free cash flow once construction is complete. 

Phase Two: An estimated $105 - $115 million investment in a new day lodge and snow school facility within the Watershed indoor adventure center on Blackcomb Mountain, a two-storey parking complex at Blackcomb's upper Base II area, and other infrastructure projects to lay the foundation for Renaissance phase three.  The Company's current plans for phase two also include the development and sale of approximately 60 high-end, ski-in ski-out townhomes near the Watershed, totaling approximately 160,000 net saleable square feet. 

Phase Three:  An estimated $140 - $150 million investment in a major revitalization of Blackcomb's base area in the Upper Village, which the Company currently expects to include an upgraded day lodge and skiers' plaza, a new snow school facility and a luxury real estate development project.  Phase three is designed to transform Blackcomb's base area into a vibrant, upscale village community.  The Company anticipates Renaissance phase three will also include major on-mountain improvements such as lift improvements and the development of an indoor action sports training facility designed to expand the Company's youth development programs in skiing, snowboarding and mountain biking. 

Conditions for Construction and Timing

Renaissance is subject to satisfaction of a number of conditions, including municipal and provincial government approvals, the successful renegotiation and extension of Whistler Blackcomb's Master Development Agreements ("MDAs") and master plans, completion of consultations with the Squamish and Lil'wat First Nations, and negotiation of a proposed business partnership with those First Nations. The Company estimates the construction period for phases one and two will be approximately four to five years, and expects to open the Watershed to the public within two years of the above conditions being met.

Regarding the renewal of the MDAs and master plans, which is a high priority for the Company, Brownlie, adds, "We continue to be in active discussions with the Province and the Squamish and Lil'wat First Nations to secure the renewal of our MDAs and master plans to pave the way for Renaissance. Whistler is in the Squamish and Lil'wat First Nations traditional territories and we want to partner with these important stakeholders to benefit our shareholders and our communities. To that end, we have recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding that sets out the basis on which we will be working together for the coming year. It's an exciting time for our Company and our communities and we look forward to executing on the most ambitious project in our history in full collaboration with the Province, the Resort Municipality of Whistler and the Squamish and Lil'wat First Nations."

Return on Investment

The Company expects Renaissance to generate incremental returns well in excess of its weighted average cost of capital. Each phase and discrete component of the Renaissance strategic plan will be subject to the discipline and risk management practices that the Company has successfully used for the $114 million of growth and maintenance capital investments made over the past five years. The investments under Renaissance are not expected to have any adverse impact on the Company's ability to participate in other growth opportunities and maintain its current quarterly dividend.

Financing and Real Estate Risk Management

The Company intends to finance all of the capital costs associated with Renaissance with its free cash flow and revolving credit facility, with the exception of the phase two townhome project and the phase three luxury real estate development project (the "Real Estate Projects").  The Company intends to minimize the financing, construction and marketing risks associated with the Real Estate Projects through various potential strategies, which may include the sale of the Real Estate Projects once rezoning is approved, a joint venture with a real estate development partner and other strategies as appropriate.  The estimated real estate development costs are included in the total investment amounts above.  The Company currently estimates the cost of the phase two townhome development will be approximately $80 - $85 million and the cost of the phase three luxury real estate development will be approximately $90 - $95 million. The Company intends to use the real estate projects as a means to unlock capital to fund a portion of the Renaissance investments and does not view these discrete real estate development projects as a significant change in the Company's strategic focus.

Whistler Blackcomb Renaissance Website

Additional information about Renaissance is available on the Renaissance website at http://renaissance.whistlerblackcomb.com/

Whistler Blackcomb Master Plans

The Company's draft master plans are available at http://www.whistlerblackcomb.com/holdings/financial-reports-filing-documents

Conference Call Information

Management will conduct a conference call on April 6, 2016 at 7:30 a.m. Pacific Time / 10:30 a.m. Eastern Time to review Renaissance and answer questions from the investment community. The call can be accessed by dialing 1.800.319.4610 (Canada and US) or 1.604.638.5340 (International) prior to the start of the call. A live webcast and 30 day replay of the conference call will be available in the Presentation & Webcasts section of the Company's website.

ABOUT WHISTLER BLACKCOMB HOLDINGS INC.

The Company holds a 75 per cent interest in each of Whistler Mountain Resort Limited Partnership and Blackcomb Skiing Enterprises Limited Partnership (the "Partnerships"), which, together, carry on the four-season mountain resort business located in the Resort Municipality of Whistler, British Columbia (the "Resort Business"). The Company is the operating general partner of the Partnerships and as such manages the Resort Business. Whistler Blackcomb, the official alpine skiing venue for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, is situated in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia, 125 kilometres (78 miles) north of Vancouver, British Columbia. North America's largest four-season mountain resort, Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb Mountain are two side-by-side mountains, connected by the world record-breaking PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola, which combined offer over 200 marked runs, over 8,000 acres of terrain, 14 alpine bowls, three glaciers, receive on average over 1,163 centimetres (458 inches) of snow annually, and offer one of the longest ski seasons in North America. In the summer, Whistler Blackcomb offers a variety of activities, including hiking and biking trails, the Whistler Mountain Bike Park, and sightseeing on the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola. Whistler Blackcomb Holdings Inc. is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol "WB".  Additional information is available on the Company's website at www.whistlerblackcomb.com/holdings or under the Company's SEDAR profile at www.sedar.com.

CAUTIONARY NOTE REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS

This press release and the associated conference call and webcast, which will include a presentation on Renaissance and a question and answer session, may contain certain forward-looking statements or information, within the meaning of applicable Canadian securities laws, which reflect the current view of the Company with respect to future events and financial performance. Forward-looking statements can often be identified by the use of forward-looking terminology such as "may", "will", "could", "should", "expect", "intend", "estimate", "anticipate", "plan", "believe" or "continue" or the negatives of such terms or variations of them or similar terminology. All forward-looking statements made by the Company are based on the opinions and estimates of management as of the date such statements are made and represent management's best judgment based on facts and assumptions that management considers reasonable, including expectations and assumptions concerning availability of capital resources, guest visitation patterns, ski visitations and non-ski visitations mix, its ability to successfully renew its MDAs and master plans in a timely manner and on commercially reasonable terms, economic and financial conditions, the success obtained in developing new facilities and activities and the performance of such facilities and activities. Although the Company believes that the expectations and assumptions on which such forward-looking information is based are reasonable, undue reliance should not be placed on the forward-looking information since no assurance can be given that they will prove to be correct. The forward-looking statements and information contained in this press release and the associated conference call and webcast include statements regarding: the estimated capital to be invested in Renaissance; the expected impact of Renaissance on the Company's achievement of its vision; Renaissance further solidifying and enhancing the Company's reputation as one of the world's greatest truly four-season mountain resorts and building on its year-round appeal to all guests; the expected return on investment of Renaissance; the phases and associated components of Renaissance; the timing of completion of Renaissance and each of its phases (including the timing to open the Watershed to the public); the impact of Renaissance on the Company's ability to participate in future growth opportunities and maintain its quarterly dividend; the anticipated sources of financing for Renaissance and the Real Estate Projects; and potential risk management approaches, among others. These forward-looking statements and information are subject to a number of risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those anticipated including, but not limited to, satisfaction of conditions precedent to the commencement and completion of Renaissance (not all of which are in the Company's control), potential lack of availability of financing for the Real Estate Projects on terms satisfactory to the Company, unfavorable economic conditions, decreases in leisure and business travel, seasonality of operations, capital expenditures, currency fluctuations, reliance on agreements with the Province of British Columbia to operate the Resort Business, competition from other resorts, dependence on key employees and seasonal workforce, workforce risks (including labour for the construction of Renaissance), the impact of natural disasters, risks related to the credit facility and interest rate risks, adequacy of insurance coverage, litigation or governmental investigations, safety and accident risks, environmental laws and regulations, risks related to privacy laws and information technology, and risks relating to third party interests.  A more detailed description of certain of these risks is available in the Company's most recently filed annual information form and management's discussion and analysis, which is available on the Company's website and at www.sedar.com under the Company's SEDAR profile.

Should one or more of these risks or uncertainties materialize, or should assumptions underlying the forward-looking statements or information prove incorrect, actual results may vary materially from those described herein. Although the Company believes that the expectations reflected in such forward-looking statements and information are reasonable, undue reliance should not be placed on forward-looking statements or information because the Company can give no assurance that such expectations will prove to be correct.

These forward-looking statements and information are made as of the date of this press release, and the Company has no intention and assumes no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements or information to reflect new events or circumstances, except as required by applicable Canadian securities laws.

SOURCE Whistler Blackcomb Holdings Inc.

For further information: David Wilcox, Manager, Finance & Investor Relations, Whistler Blackcomb Holdings Inc., dwilcox@whistlerblackcomb.com, ph: 604.938.7376


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