Economic Plan to Guide Future of Montage Mountain as Regional Commercial/Tourist Hub in Northeastern Pennsylvania


Scranton, Lackawanna County, PA - Development of Montage Mountain that began in the 1980s has since turned that landscape into a regional commercial and tourist hub. It features a ski resort/water park, minor-league baseball, concerts, strip-mall shops, offices, restaurants, hotels, a cineplex, golf course and upscale homes, among others.

Now, with a major slopeside hotel on the drawing board, room for more growth on undeveloped parcels and some office buildings with vacancies, Lackawanna County seeks a consultant to do a comprehensive economic development plan to prepare for, and shape, the future of Montage Mountain.

Such a plan would analyze business development, strategic investment and transformative projects, the real estate market, assessments of existing lots, land uses and infrastructure of water, sewer, utilities, broadband, roads and pedestrian needs, according to a public notice in the Nov. 7 edition of The Times-Tribune by the Lackawanna County Department of Planning and Economic Development. The department seeks proposals to be submitted by Dec. 5 at 3 p.m. from firms interested in conducting the study, the notice says.

The county aims to have a study completed by Aug. 31, said Brenda Sacco, the county’s director of planning and economic development.“A lot has changed and a lot of development has occurred, a lot of great development. There’s so much going on on that mountain,” Sacco said. The underlying questions for a study are, “What is the future of the mountain? How do we further develop it?”

Nearly four decades after the Montage ski resort opened in December 1984 after years of planning, the mountain and its evolution have had ups and downs.

Topography and traffic are intertwined. Traffic jams occur during major concerts and festivals at the amphitheater pavilion atop the mountain and during baseball games at the stadium at the bottom.

“We’re looking at our pavilion for entertainment and how we could better serve the public,” Sacco said. “When there’s a concert or a ball game, it becomes difficult to get in and out.”

Initial infrastructure dates to the early 1980s and “clearly the needs have changed,” Sacco said. “Do we need a wider road? Do we need another road?”

These are the kinds of issues an economic study will examine because building infrastructure of roads or utilities is very costly, Sacco said.

The COVID-19 pandemic also has altered part of the equation of the mountain’s mix of occupants. For example, one office building that had employees work remotely during the pandemic shutdown has not had them return, Sacco said.“There’s a lot of office space there that isn’t being utilized. That kind of changes the landscape,” she said. “Maybe the (office building) needs are different post-COVID.”

Meanwhile, Montage Mountain Resorts has big plans in the works for the ski resort and water park. The firm hopes to break ground in May on a slopeside nine-story, 152-room Montage Mountain Hotel & Conference Center in May of 2024, said part-owner Charles Jefferson. He’s thrilled to see the county undertake an economic development study of the mountain as a step toward making improvements.

“That mountain has such a huge economic impact for Scranton and for the region writ large,” Jefferson said. “From a hotel standpoint, we are wholly committed to putting a hotel on top of that mountain, but part of that is you’ll need access. If things stand the way they are, access is going to be difficult.”

For example, the Toyota Pavilion amphitheater that hosts big-name concerts and festivals “is absolutely a regional draw with awesome opportunity,” but hours-long traffic jams are a big detriment, Jefferson said. He has heard from middle-aged acquaintances who are put off by the prospect of sitting in traffic on the mountain for hours.

“There are people who just won’t go because of the traffic,” Jefferson said.

And the mountain also contains private parcels available for purchase by developers.

“There’s definitely opportunity” for more growth, Sacco said. “We need to understand where those improvements could be and their costs” in terms of infrastructure needs.

The study will be funded with a $100,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission and a matching amount from county funds, Sacco said. A study will be crucial to seeking other grant funds for infrastructure improvements, she said.

“To go for any additional grant money, you have to have a plan. So this is a first step in determining what that plan could be,” Sacco said.


Click the link below for additional details on Lackawanna County's RFP for an Economic Development Plan for Montage Mountain.