Family behind freestyle center seeks support
KEYSTONE – To a certain degree, the future of Keystone and its place in the nationwide ski industry will come before the Snake River Planning Commission this Thursday as the commission reviews plans for a proposed freestyle training facility at the resort.
The proposed facility could reorient Keystone’s image in the marketplace and bring world-class athletes, including the Olympic teams of more than five countries, to train in Summit County, say supporters of the project.
“Is there a need for a place for (freestyle athletes) to call home?” Ken Sawyer asked in a public presentation on the project Tuesday afternoon at the Keystone Conference Center. “We say yes, and that place is Keystone.”
Sawyer, his ex-wife Linda Sawyer and the foundation they established in honor of their son Landon Morely Sawyer – a freestyle skier who was killed shortly before his 19th birthday in 2002 while skiing at Monarch – are the driving forces behind the proposed facility, which could include strength and conditioning facilities, an antigravity pavilion, tennis courts, a skateboard park and a 65-foot ski jump into a large pool for aerial training.
The Sawyers’ foundation would work in conjunction with the resort to develop the facilities.
The Sawyers are in Summit County this week in an attempt to shore up support for the training center. They have planned another forum with resort officials for today at 5 p.m. and will attend Thursday’s planning commission meeting.
“When I get committed to an idea, I stick with it,” Ken Sawyer said. “We’re committed to being a community of spirit, a community of inspiration.”
With the financial resources he built up during 25 years in the generic pharmaceutical business, Ken Sawyer and his wife established the Landon Morely Sawyer Foundation in their son’s honor shortly after his death. Dedicated to providing “scholarships, training facilities and cross-cultural exchanges to promote freestyle and aerial skiing throughout the United States and around the world,” according to the group’s Web site, the foundation has awarded $50,000 in scholarships for aspiring athletes and $80,000 toward the construction of a freestyle competition hill in Bogus Basin, Idaho.
“Every penny that gets donated goes to the athletes, the coaches (and) the community,” Sawyer said during a sometimes emotional presentation that honed in on the benefits of a center for young freestyle athletes and their families.
“It’s about making this place jump with a new value of family and community,” he said.
While nearly everyone in attendance at the meeting appeared to support the facility in principle, several nearby homeowners voiced concerns on the visual and audible impacts of the anticipated structures and crowds.
“I think it’s a wonderful concept,” Keystone resident Robin Hadley said. “But what’s going to happen when all these kids hoop and holler?
“For those of us who live in the immediate area, we’re concerned about the location,” she said.
Supporters of the project pointed to the level of discipline and dedication of the athletes such a center would serve and said the environment would be highly focused.
“It’s a very serious training program,” Linda Sawyer said. “You’re not going to have a bunch of kids running around and hooping and hollering.”
Ken Sawyer said the nature of the proposed facilities would tilt away from younger children, and that most athletes would fall between the ages of 18 and 22. He noted interest expressed by five international teams from countries such as Japan and Canada in training at Keystone if the project were built.
“It’s not an amusement park,” he said. “We are clearly focused on professional training.”
John Dowling, head freestyle coach for Team Summit, voiced strong support for the facility, saying it would give athletes a safe way to hone their craft in a supervised environment.
“It’s probably the safest way to learn these aerial flips,” he said of the proposed aerial ramp. “But you have to be very orderly up there.”
Dowling said that Team Summit, in conjunction with the foundation and the resort, was also looking into a permanent aerial hill on Dercum Mountain.
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