By Bay Stephens EBS Staff Writer

BIG SKY – The $400 million ultra-luxury hotel, Montage Big Sky, to be constructed next to the Spanish Peaks Mountain Club clubhouse, broke ground on Sept. 14, accompanied by speeches from Montana’s Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney, U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte and U.S. Sen. Steve Daines. The hotel is set for a 2021 completion.

Other speakers included Montage founder Alan Fuerstman; managing partner and co-founder of CrossHarbor Capital Partners, Sam Byrne; Big Sky Chamber of Commerce CEO Candace Carr Strauss; CrossHarbor managing director Matt Kidd; and John Fish, the CEO of Boston-based Suffolk Construction, the project’s general contractor.

Kidd spoke first from the podium, explaining that the 520,000-square-foot hotel will have 150 rooms, 39 branded residences and Big Sky’s first bowling alley. Four distinct restaurants and spa services will be available to the public while hotel guests will have limited access to the Spanish Peaks golf course. Montage Big Sky at Spanish Peaks will be the first luxury hotel of this caliber in the state.

“It’s a huge benefit for this Gallatin and Madison county-based economy,” Kidd said, adding that the project will create 300 construction jobs a day for the next three years and provide more than 400 operational jobs once open.

In a phone interview on Sept. 19, Lone Mountain Land Company Vice President of Planning and Development Bayard Dominick said there is no employee housing being built as part of the project, but that they’ll announce plans to address the issue soon.

“We’re working on several options right now for housing and hopefully we’ll be able to go public with those in the near future,” Dominick said. He also added that locals and non-members will be able to access the spa and restaurants during business hours.

Strauss stressed the importance of the tourism industry in Montana, noting that it drew 12.5 million nonresident visitors to the state in 2017, who spent $3.4 million dollars. She added that the industry supported more than 53,000 jobs statewide and 4,200 locally the same year.

“In addition to the Montage Big Sky vastly expanding the hospitality offerings for our visitors, it will create new jobs and continue to fuel the economic expansion of Big Sky, Gallatin and Madison [counties] and the state of Montana,” Strauss said.

Byrne said that between the three CrossHarbor Capital-owned clubs—the Yellowstone Club, Spanish Peaks Mountain Club, and Moonlight Basin—CrossHarbor employs more than 1,500 people and “close to 3,000 people a day in high-paying construction jobs.”

“Just this project alone will generate $1.2 million dollars in resort taxes,” Byrne continued, adding that projections for future projects they plan to implement are forecast to increase resort tax collections by approximately $5 million over the next six years.

In a members-only presentation in the Spanish Peaks clubhouse, several members’ concerns over crowding were addressed.

“I think the way it was presented was very positive,” member Carrol Kistler said.

“I think the team they assembled sounds like first-rate, unbelievable professionals,” Scott O’Connor, another member, said. “There’s going to be added people up here, obviously, but there’s times when there’s nobody up here. I don’t think it’s going to become crowded up here.”

Both Kistler, O’Connor and their spouses were impressed by Suffolk Construction’s John Smith, agreeing that they felt the project was in good hands.

“One of this country’s largest ski areas is booming, in no small part thanks to your efforts,” Lt. Gov. Cooney said of the team that orchestrated the project. “The state of Montana is on a great path forward.”

Gianforte and Daines made similar remarks in their speeches, emphasizing the high-paying jobs the hotel’s construction and operations will bring to the area.

“It’s great to have a world-class partner in this project,” Gianforte said to Alan Fuerstman. “We know, with your reputation, this is going to be an incredible asset for Montana. … The outdoors is part of our way of life, and to have assets here so we can draw new Montanans in, it’s a tremendous thing.”

Along with Cooney and Gianforte, Daines thanked Byrne for his role in Big Sky’s development.

The project appears to be well-received by Spanish Peaks Mountain Club members, but social media responses to the news of the groundbreaking revealed an undercurrent of discontent among locals who are not members of the area clubs and are concerned about issues related to affordable housing and construction traffic in Big Sky and the Gallatin Canyon.