Changes Underway and on Schedule at the Antlers

When people learn how long we’ve lived in the Vail Valley (whether that’s 5 years or 45 years) they often say, “You must have seen a lot of changes during that time.”  One of our favorite responses is, “Hey, we’ve seen a lot of changes since Tuesday!”
 
That’s never been more true than right now, right here.  The changes that we envisioned a year ago are happening, and happening fast!  During our last big renovation in 2001, we built a new lobby which seemed like such an enormous improvement over the previous pillbox. Well, that reception area has now been completely demo’d.  And the replacement is going to be AWESOME.

Much less visible, but equally important, is the extensive foundation work that has taken place in preparation for the new elevator. That, after all, was the impetus for this whole project.  The renovated front desk area, offices and one brand new condominium were all afterthoughts (and good ones) to the main motivation of improving the weakest link in our guests’ experience … the 1972 elevator.
 
The past two months have seen an awful lot of noise and dust, but most of the worst of that is behind us now.  Sure, there will be some more noisy days, but the concrete saw cutting is almost done, as is the jack-hammering of the stone pillars.  Throughout it all, our staff and our guests have survived and even often said, “It wasn’t as bad as I expected.”  
 
There have been a lot of parallels between this $5 million project and the Antlers 2000 project twenty years ago.  One of them has been the number of owners in residence, and guests as well, who are actually entertained by watching the construction!  Although the courtyard is off-limits, and packed with equipment and materials staging, most of the walkways have a birdseye view of the whole operation and it tends to bring out the wide-eyed little kid in all of us.
 
Another similarity between the two projects has been the participation of an “owner’s rep”.  In the construction world, that’s they guy you hire to keep an objective eye on the contractor as well as the architect.  Someone who has a lot more construction expertise than the person actually writing the checks.  Never has that been more relevant and necessary than here at the Antlers.  In 2000 we hired Jack Berga to fill that role.  He was beyond wonderful and absolutely instrumental in making the whole project successful.  As great as Jack was, Dave Collins is even better.  And the best part is that Dave has been on the Antlers staff for five years now, acting as our construction coordinator for the dozens of condominium remodels we’ve completed during that time.  He has an extensive background in large-scale construction projects, but also the pleasant demeanor that is often missing from those in the world of hardhats.

Despite Dave’s generally easy-going attitude, don’t let that fool you.  He can quickly “get in your face” when he sees something that isn’t right, or that could be done better.  And that’s EXACTLY what we need.  Our general contractor, Hyder Construction, has been a delight to work with.  Nevertheless, not a day goes by that the Antlers board and management don’t thank their lucky stars for the presence of Dave Collins.
 
Although the construction impacts have been, and will continue to be manageable, we don’t want to risk any of our guests having a bad experience.  So as we approach the halfway mark in the construction schedule we’ll continue to limit our occupancy to about 50% – 60% of our normal capacity, and we’ll continue to bend over backwards to inform those guests (and owners) what to expect.  In a twist on the old customer service adage, we are trying to over-promise and under-deliver on the negative impacts from the construction.  So far, so good.
 
And we sure look forward to showing off the finished product this coming ski season!

BIG Improvements in 2019

With all of the many improvements that the Antlers has made over the years, we know that our real Achilles’ Heel is the south (original) elevator. Clearly it does not begin to match the Platinum quality that we have worked so hard to achieve in the condominiums, and all around the property. Although we have spent tens of thousands of dollars trying to make that elevator acceptable, the handwriting is on the wall that it just needs to be completely replaced.

While it would seem logical to replace the elevator in its current location (and as much as we’d like to), due to current code issues and a myriad of physical constraints, it’s just not feasible.  Fortunately, local architect Henry Pratt has helped us to identify a new, alternative location in the southeast corner of the courtyard.  It’s next to the area that we currently use as bicycle storage in the summer. We’ll still have to cut through the post tension slabs that comprise the garage and parking deck.  That isn’t cheap or easy, but at least it’s viable. With that new location comes the opportunity to make some much needed improvements to the lobby, front desk, reception area and associated office spaces. If we’re going to be considered a Platinum rated property, those spaces also need to be upgraded to that level of quality, just as the condominiums have been. 

A much more welcoming entrance will give our guests and owners a far better first impression.  For anyone who has visited grand hotels or five-star resorts and observed how much gets invested in the arrival experience, it’s easy to understand the importance of that concept … particularly in the hospitality business.  A two story structure with vaulted ceilings will replace the Antlers current one-level front desk “shoe box”, offering much more efficiency in addition to the radically improved aesthetics.

Fortunately, at a recent special meeting of the Antlers owners, there was overwhelming consensus to do what needs to be done, even if it is quite expensive. The total cost of the project is around four million dollars! We’re lucky that our ownership understands and appreciates the need to provide a great product for our guests … throughout the building.  Those that have been around for awhile also remember that similar investments they’ve made in the past, have been more than offset by the increased value of their property.

The plan now is to break ground in April 2019, at the end of ski season. Look for some good lodging deals during the summer! Then we should be 100% complete and ship shape in time for the 2019-2020 ski season.  Stay tuned for more information!

 

Pay It Backward Returns!

In today’s lexicon, the term “Pay It Forward” has come to mean doing something nice for someone in hopes that they’ll do something nice for someone else … a wonderful gesture of blind faith with the intent to perpetuate a series of future generous acts.

Logically then, “Pay It Backward” must refer to that circumstance when someone has already been so nice that they simply deserve a little reward.

With that in mind, several years ago we at the Antlers decided to host a Pay It Backward weekend. In line with our constant desire to be a good corporate citizen, we identified three dozen deserving non-profits and invited each of them to designate a person of their choice to spend two free nights in Vail … no strings attached. It could be their Executive Director or a hard working staff member. It might be their Volunteer of the Year. It could even be a recipient of their services, who they just think deserves a break today. Whoever they wanted … totally their choice. Naturally, “significant others” and family members were welcome also. We simply wanted to take the opportunity to thank them for doing what they do … helping to make this world a little better place.

 

Pay It Backward s

Needless to say, that first year was a tremendous success. Almost all of the invited nonprofits participated and sent a deserving staff member or volunteer.  They were all so appreciative and not only enjoyed a relaxing weekend away, but also the opportunity to connect with others.

Since then, we have held the second and third annual Pay It Backward Weekends. Not surprisingly, those were just as successful as the first one. In addition to the two free nights, the Antlers hosts a reception for everyone on Saturday evening. Similar to our weekly guest receptions in the winter, Chef Barry Robinson wows the crowd with his gourmet offerings. The Antlers provides plenty of wine and refreshments and people have a chance to share their non-profit’s story, if they choose. Again, no strings attached … people can come to mingle and network with all the other humanitarians, or they are totally excused if they’re just too busy enjoying Vail and our surrounding mountains.

In 2015, Fireside Productions attended on behalf of the Women’s Foundation of Colorado and donated their time in producing a video that captured the spirit of the event …

The list of invitees has changed a bit, but over the years the following organizations have been invited (somewhat randomly) to participate. We have tried to find a good mix of social, environmental, humanitarian, health, military, children and animal related causes. The Antlers had a previous relationship with some of them and others we had just always admired. Naturally, there are a million others who would be equally deserving, but hey, you’ve got to start somewhere. 

Advocates for Children – CASA
Alliance for Sustainable Colorado
American Heart Association
American Red Cross Mile High Chapter
Arvada Center for the Arts
Audubon Rockies
Bicycle Colorado
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado
Boys & Girls Clubs
Canine Companions for Independence
CAR Housing Opportunity Fund
Catholic Charities
The Center For Mental Health
Children’s Hospital Colorado Foundation
Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Colorado Horse Rescue
Colorado Public Radio
Colorado Fourteener Initiative
Colorado Water Trust
Conservation Colorado
Crossroads Safehouse
Denver Children’s Advocacy Center
Denver Dumb Friends League
Denver Indian Family Resource Center
Denver Rescue Mission
Easter Seals
Engineers Without Borders
Firefly Autism
Food Bank of the Rockies
Habitat for Humanity of Colorado
Hearts and Horses
The Home Front Cares
Hope House of Colorado
Hospice of Northern Colorado
IDE – International Development Enterprises
Joshua Station
MaxFund
Mesa County Partners
Mile High United Way
Mi Casa Resource Center

Rocky Mountain Raptor Program
Rocky Mountain Rescue Group
Ronald McDonald House
Salvation Army of Colorado Springs
Sense of Security
Wounded Warrior Project
Women’s Foundation of Colorado
9 Health Fair

      Plans are now underway for Pay It Backward IV on May 11 – 13, 2018! 

As always, the Antlers takes pride in remembering that life is short and there’s a lot more to a successful business than just making money.

Randi Davis, Controller Extraordinaire

When I became the Antlers General Manager in 1987, the very first senior manager I brought on board was Randi Davis. It’s not very far-fetched to say that my first hire was my best hire. Lucky for us, thirty years later Randi is still with the Antlers today!

In addition to the normal challenges of her role as Controller, Randi had the added pressure of being hired to do a job which I had held along the way. Happily, I can’t think of a single instance when I was tempted to say, “But this is the way I did it.” In virtually every circumstance, she performed her duties as well, and generally better, than I ever did.  Frankly, it’s kind of humbling.

Her job includes ALL of the HOA accounting. Many condominium properties of our size have two, and sometimes three people, to execute their accounting functions.  Not the Antlers … it’s just Randi. Even more impressive is the fact that she handles the majority of the HR functions as well! Again, other properties often have a dedicated person performing just those tasks.  More than once I have explained to the Antlers owners that Randi fulfills the roles of two complete departments … All. By. Herself.

Riding the gondola with Magdalena

The annual audit for the Antlers is always performed by an independent CPA. We’ve had four different companies provide that service for us over the years. Perhaps the greatest testimony to the quality of Randi’s work comes without fail at the end of each fiscal year, when after about a bazillion transactions, the auditing company has so few “adjusting entries” to our books and to all the work that Randi has done throughout the year. There have even been a couple years when they had none.  Now that’s just about unheard of in the accounting world!

Our employees have always enjoyed the enormous benefit of having an on-site HR person helping them with everything from insurance claims to their 401K plan. No outsourcing here. The Antlers was even one of the first small companies to provide a cafeteria plan for our employees, and over the years we’ve continued to be on the cutting edge when it comes to employee benefits. All of those programs were implemented and administered initially by Randi Davis.