|By Mike Gorrell, The Salt Lake
TribuneMcClatchy-Tribune Business News
Sep. 14, 2006 - MIDWAY -- Taking up where his great-grandfather left off, William Fuller fulfilled a dream with Wednesday's grand opening of Zermatt Resort & Spa.
He has spent 11 years wrapping up the innumerable details needed to bring the $90 million resort -- replete with a hotel, conference rooms, condominiums, a carousel, two restaurants, a ballroom and a spa -- to fruition.
A better day would have been hard to order. With a cloudless blue sky overhead, Gov. Jon Huntsman, Jr. in attendance and separate string and Alphorn quartets providing accompaniment, Fuller oversaw a ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the opening of the upscale, Swiss-oriented resort whose clientele frequently will be upper-echelon personnel from high-powered companies attending a conference or retreat.
"This [project] is all about putting the greatest state in America onto the map," said Huntsman, applauding Fuller for his persistence. He also noted Fuller's wisdom in retaining Dolce International -- which has 27 properties in the United States, Canada and three European countries -- to operate the 226-room hotel and its 41,000 square feet of indoor meeting space. "There's no better way than the excellence [on display] here."
General managers from Dolce's far-flung properties were on hand for the dedication after attending a three-day company conference at Zermatt -- exactly the kind of influential people expected to frequent the resort.
Noting the resort opening coincides with the launch of the state's "Utah -- Life Elevated" tourism-promotion campaign, the governor said Dolce's international experience "will bring a lot of recognition to what we're doing in increasing awareness of Utah.
"We live in a global economy. To have the destination to attract the Mercedes Benzes, Fords, Microsofts and Nikes of the world is an economic development tool we can't put a dollar value on. Zermatt and Utah will go hand-in-hand nicely."
Management company founder Andy Dolce said the area's physical beauty, friendly people and the support of political figures from Huntsman on down convinced him to become involved with Zermatt.
"All of the ingredients were in place. We could predict this facility would be successful," he said. "This property will set the standard for resort operators in North America. Over time, when people talk of Zermatt, they will speak of it in the same breath as the Broadmoor [in Colorado Springs, Colo.] and the Del Coronado [in San Diego]. That's a tall order, but that's where we will be. That's our commitment."
A dentist by trade, Fuller is reaching back to his roots in launching the resort, about an hour's drive south and east of Salt Lake City.
His great-grandfather, William Fuller, an English convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, moved to Utah in 1862 and purchased a block of land in Salt Lake City. It stretched from 1300 East to 1000 East between South Temple and 400 South. He diverted Red Butte Creek to create a large pond there, built amusement park rides and operated Fuller's Hill Pleasure Gardens from 1875 into the early 1890s.
But the property was taken by the federal government, Fuller said, as part of the complicated process of negotiating Utah's statehood.
In addition, he said, the Swiss branch of his family tree includes Simon Schneitter, who found Midway to be a hard place to farm but a good place for bathing in natural hot pools.
He founded Schneitter's Hot Pots, later sold to the Whitaker family and renamed The Homestead.
The Whitakers sold The Homestead to Great Inns of the Rockies in 1986. But Tom Whitaker is back in the Heber Valley hospitality business, becoming Fuller's partner three years ago.
Given this background, Fuller said, "I believe it will be said the hospitality [our guests] experience was not developed overnight but cultivated over generations." And, he added, "I plan not to let the federal government seize it. They can't have this one."
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