It's taken Bob Fuller years to bring about his dream of creating an authentic Swiss village in the foothills of this picturesque town, but he took a giant step toward that goal Wednesday with a ground-breaking ceremony for the first phase of Zermatt Resort.
Construction on the $30 million project, located on 18 acres of farmland across the street from the historic Homestead resort, is scheduled to get under way next month and be completed and ready for business by the spring of 2000, said project manager Jeff Beecher.Marriott International Inc. has signed on as a partner with Fuller and his Orem-based Matterhorn Development to operate Zermatt Resort as a Marriott Conference Center, the first to be located in the West.
Fuller, a former dentist turned real estate developer, has been building in Midway since the 1980s. He developed the 142-unit Swiss Oaks condominium complex just north of the Zermatt property and has already constructed the first dozen of a planned 44 Swiss-themed condos immediately to the south, called the Villages of Zermatt.
Immediate construction plans for Zermatt Resort include a 230-room full-service hotel and a 35,000-square-foot conference center with video and teleconferencing facilities that will cater to groups of 50 or fewer.
Other amenities include an ice skating rink, two restaurants, shops with Old World storefronts, an amphitheater, tennis center, health club, high-tech miniature golf and a plaza complete with carousel. A second carillon that will compliment the one at Swiss Oaks is also in the works.
"Some people have compared this to Disneyland, but it will be the most unique conference resort in America, providing a highly creative and effective meeting experience," Fuller said.
The site is not far from the cross country skiing venue for the 2002 Winter Olympics, and the Games are expected to give Zermatt a boost. "But it's a lot more than an Olympic facility. This is for the very long term of the Utah economy and tourism in the state," said Alan Rindlisbacher, spokesman for general contractor Layton Construction.
Opposition to the project has been scant, but Midway Mayor Eugene H. Owens got a laugh during his remarks at the groundbreaking when he alluded to the "hoops and hurdles" that the city made Fuller jump through and over.
"We're not an easy city to work in . . . but Dr. Fuller is no quitter. If he were, he would have been gone a long time ago," said Owens.
Over and over, local officials and those involved in the project spoke to Fuller's unwavering tenacity and refusal to give up on his project, which will become the largest employer in Wasatch County after it's up and running.
Terry Harwood, general manager of Marriott Conference Centers, told the gathering that the only day in the past six months that Fuller hasn't called him was when he was in Europe. "Is this guy for real?" Harwood quipped.
Zermatt Resort, named for the Swiss village located at the base of the famed Matterhorn mountain, should fit right in at Midway. The town was founded by Mormon pioneers of Swiss heritage, and Fuller's family first launched the hot springs spa resort that later became the Homestead.
"I think that's why the community has accepted this project so readily," said Rindlisbacher. "Swiss Days here draws upward of 100,000 people, so they are accustomed to being a tourist resort."
It doesn't hurt to have the well known and respected Marriott name attached to the project, either.
"The Marriott name will add strength that even the Homestead doesn't have and the people here support that," said Rindlisbacher. "The tourists come in, spend their money and leave, and they don't have to educate their kids or fix the chuckholes."