|By Steve Cahalan, La Crosse Tribune,
Wis.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
July 31, 2008 - WARRENS, Wis. -- The Three Bears Resort in Warrens may close as soon as Sept. 29 unless it is sold, with the loss of about 244 jobs, owner Van Der Molen Recreational Properties Inc. notified village officials Tuesday.
In a press release, company President Edward Van Der Molen said his firm is actively seeking a buyer or buyers for the property. "The process of selling the resort has been under way for several weeks, and we have a number of interested parties in various stages of fact-finding about the possibility of closing a sale or partnership agreement," Van Der Molen said.
"Some potential buyers are interested in the Jellystone Park campground only, some are interested in the hotel only, and some parties are interested in controlling the entire resort property," he said.
It is the nation's largest Jellystone Park.
"The continuing rise in gas and oil prices and their subsequent effect on the transportation and travel plans of Americans has affected our business like many other businesses," Van Der Molen said in the press release. "It has not been possible to keep growing the resort at its projected rates during the current difficult economic conditions many of our guests find themselves in."
Van Der Molen wasn't available for additional comment Wednesday.
The resort includes a 93-room hotel, indoor and outdoor water parks, skatepark, conference center and the Jellystone Park Camp-Resort.
The resort remains open for business, Van Der Molen said.
Employees received notices Tuesday informing them that if a sale does not occur, a shutdown of all or part of the property is possible, the press release said. The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act notices are required by law, in order to notify workers and government officials of a potential closing, the press release said.
The notice the village received says the facility will permanently close on Sept. 29 or within 14 days after that, if it is not sold by Sept. 29.
"I don't know (if the announcement comes as a surprise)," Warrens Village President Mike Clark said Wednesday. "I know he's (Van Der Molen) been having a little difficulty financially. I guess we kind of expected something to happen."
The resort is by far the largest employer in Warrens, Clark said.
According to Tribune files, the business opened in 1972, and Van Der Molen -- an industrial park developer from suburban Chicago -- bought it in 1989. In the past few years, Van Der Molen has added the water parks, hotel, conference center and other accommodations and amenities. He also announced plans for an 18-hole golf course.
Steve Cahalan can be reached at (608) 791-8229 or scahalanlacrossetribune.com.
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