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Ready to ride the rails - Gunstock Mountain Coaster grand opening set for Saturday

By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN

GILFORD — After a two-year planning and public approval process, and a nine-month construction timeline, the $2.6 million Gunstock Mountain Coaster will open to the public Saturday morning.
"We're all set and ready to go. We passed all our inspections Wednesday and right now we're training our staff on how the coaster works and what our customers can expect. It's a really exciting ride, close to the trees, which provides a real feel of moving through the forest," said Greg Goddard, general manager of Gunstock Mountain Resort.
He said that the opening celebration will be held from 9 to 10 a.m. And will be attended by members of the Belknap County Delegation, Gunstock Area Commission, Wiegand Sports LLC, which manufactures and installs the coasters; the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce and Lakes Region Tourism Association as well as local businesses involved in construction project.
The program will feature speakers who will, discuss the importance of the project to the Lakes Region economy as well as a ceremonial ribbon-cutting and first rides for the invited guests.
He said that work on the $2.6 million project got underway in December with cutting of trees and staking out the path of the track, which consists of 53 individual concrete footings that had to be placed within a one inch tolerance on the X and Y axis in their strategic locations. Some of these footings were precast and others were made on site at Gunstock.
Electric and water lines also had to be installed, and by mid-March the first coaster parts, which were manufactured in Germany, arrived.
"At one point, we had 170 tons of steel on site," said Goddard, who added that the ride was installed by crews from Wiegand, a German company with more than 200 coasters around the world, including two in New Hampshire. Gunstock had 16 of its staff working on the project as well.
Goddard said the project is being completed on the timeline originally planned. He said that at one time he had hoped for an earlier completion date but "There was some rough going terrain-wise, which required a lot of digging by hand" as well as removal of additional trees.
"Building a structure like this is really complicated and it took a lot of hard work to get it done right," said Goddard.
Riders board the coaster carts at the terminal building at the foot of the hill next to Gunstock's Adventure Park. They then take a 1,800-foot ride up the mountain along a path through the woods in which they ride 20 to 30 feet off the ground in some areas before heading onto the 2,660-foot downhill track, which makes two complete circles, known as helixes, and has several sharp turns and crosses five bridges.
The downhill ride has a vertical drop of 221 feet and speeds will reach 25 mph. Riders use a brake to control their speed and there is also an automatic anti-collision system built in which slows the carts automatically. There are 40 cars, and rides last six to eight minutes.
He anticipates that the coaster will operate at 25 percent of capacity in the summer and 30 percent of capacity on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in the winter, when there are more visitors at the resort. Altogether, the coaster is expected to carry nearly 85,000 riders a year. At an average ride price of $12, the coaster is projected to return an annual operating profit of $530,000, which is one-and-half times the highest annual debt payment.
Goddard explained that the development of the Adventure Park, with its spring and summer attractions, has been the keystone of the resort's strategy to become a four-season recreational destination.
He said that in 2010, total sales between May and October were $1 million, but since the opening of the Aerial Treetop Adventure Course and Segway Off-Road Adventure Tours, they have more than doubled to $2.4 million in 2014 and over $2.2 million last year. Altogether, the Adventure Park has generated more than $7 million in direct sales while increasing collateral sales from retail operations, food and beverages and chairlift rides.
Goddard said that the long-range plan foresees investing $21.5 million in all aspects of the resort's facilities and activities during the next decade. He pointed out that in 2000 Belknap County's equity in the resort was a negative $3.7 million while today it is a positive $9.5 million, a turnaround of $13.1 million.
Gunstock's winter skiing, snowboarding and tubing attractions attract between 140,000 and 170,000 visitors a year and generate between $7 million and $9 million a year in revenues. Originally opened as the Belknap Mountain Recreation Area in 1938 Gunstock was built as Works Progress Administration project during the Depression and is the only county-owned ski area in the country.

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Gunstock Mountain Resort staff members took rides on the Gunstock Mountain Coaster Wednesday morning to familiarize themselves with the resort's newest attraction, which will open to the public this Saturday. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

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Colonial check - Franklin Savings contributes $100K for theater restoration

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — Franklin Savings Bank Wednesday carried the capital campaign to finance the renovation and restoration of the Colonial Theatre a step nearer its goal of raising $2 million with a contribution of $100,000.

Ron Magoon, president and chief operating officer of the bank, said "This is a great community project and a great opportunity to restore what was a gem in its time to its original glory." He said that the reopening of the theater would be "very meaningful to the economic development of the city and the region."

Randy Eifert, chairman of the Belknap Economic Development Council, who toured the theater with Magoon, expressed his appreciation to the bank for its generosity. "What helps the communities we serve," Magoon said, "helps us, too."

The Belknap Economic Development Council is undertaking the capital campaign as one element of a $15 million financial package that includes grants and investments from both public and private sources. Although a relatively small share of the entire package, the capital campaign, which seeks $2 million contributions from local and regional business enterprises, civic organizations and private individuals is essential to the success of the project.

By partnering with the Cultural Arts Center of the Lakes Region, which is a registered charitable organization, the Belknap Economic Development Council can ensure that all contributions are deductible against federal taxes. Furthermore, plaques will be mounted in the foyer of the theater commemorate those making contributions of $500 or more.

Justin Slattery, executive director of the council, said the fundraising effort is gathering momentum with a growing number of pledges and donations. He expressed confidence that the campaign will reach its goal by December 1. He said that he expect to announce more major contributions in the coming weeks.

Slattery noted that the Colonial Theatre project has a website — www.609mainstreet.org — and by clicking on the "Donate Today" button donors can print a form to make their contribution. For further information contact the Belknap Economic Development Council at 603-524-3057 or email Slattery at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

08-10 Colonial Theatre donation

Ron Magoon, president and chief operating officer of Franklin Savings Bank, second from left, presents a $100,000 check toward the restoration of the Colonial Theatre to Randy Eifert, chairman of the Belknap Economic Council, to his right. They were joined, from Magoon's left, by Warren Clement and Laconia Mayor Ed Engler, members of the Colonial Theatre Project Fundraising Committee, and Allan Beetle, a director of the Belknap Economic Development Council. (Michael Kitch/Laconia Daily Sun)

Man arrested for drugs failed recovery program

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

TILTON —  A former Laconia man who was arrested on a probation violation had approximately 200 grams of heroin/fentanyl and an unknown quantity of methamphetamine in his possession, police said Wednesday.

08-11 Jordan Manning

Jordan Manning, 25, of 601 Province Road was arrested by Tilton Police who were working with the U.S. Marshal’s Joint Fugitive Task Force was found by on Aug. 2.

He is being held at the Belknap County House of Corrections on $100,000 cash-only bail for the probation violation.

According to a motion to terminate his participation in Recovery Court filed by Belknap County Attorney Melissa Guldbrandsen in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division on Aug. 5, Manning pleaded guilty on March 8 to one count of possession of heroin and was allowed entry to the recovery program.

The recovery team voted to terminate him from Recovery Court after about 10 weeks because he disappeared, he continued his drug use and lied about it, and because he failed to make it past Step 1.

Manning, according to Guldbrandsen, had also been terminated from the Phoenix House Program in Dublin on May 23 and they reported his termination to the Belknap County Corrections Department.

An officer went to pick him up but learned he had fled while they were in route. Guldbrandsen said that at one point he called Horizon's Counseling Center and said he would take a taxi from Dublin, but never arrived.

Manning hid from police for two months until the task force, his probation/parole officer and the Tilton Police found him at the Rodeway Inn last week. The drugs were allegedly found in a toilet bowl in his hotel room.

Gulbrandsen said that during a subsequent interview, Manning allegedly told them “He had been purchasing substantial quantities (of drugs) in Massachusetts and distributing them in the Lakes Region.”

Tilton Police said that any additional charges against Manning regarding the drugs at the Rodeway Inn are being handled by  Guldbrandsen and the county attorney's office.

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