Yukon First Nation buys 3 Watson Lake hotels

The Liard First Nation in Watson Lake, Yukon, has purchased three of the town's four hotels in a multimillion-dollar deal, CBC News has confirmed.

The Liard First Nation in Watson Lake, Yukon, has purchased three of the town's four hotels in a multimillion-dollar deal, CBC News has confirmed.

The deal, which took effectJune 1, includes properties and assets connected to the Belvedere Motor Hotel, the Gateway Motor Inn and the Watson Lake Hotel, sources said.

The properties were owned by a partnership thatincludes Porter Creek Centre MLA Archie Lang and continues to operate the town's grocery store.

No official word has been given on a price or how the sale is being financed, since both the sellers and buyers are saying little about it. However, the deal is rumoured to be in the $3 million range.

Pat Irvin, whose family co-owned the properties with Lang's family, would only tell CBC News on Friday that "it's a good deal for all parties, and the First Nation has done everything it promised in the deal."

Alex Morrison, manager of the Liard First Nation Development Corp.,would not discuss details, saying that a press release was pending.

The deal would make the Liard First Nation the biggest commercial hotelowners in thetown of about 1,550, locatednear the B.C. border. Watson Lake is famous for the Sign Post Forest, which began in 1942 when an American soldier working on the Alaska Highway posted a sign with the mileage to his hometown.

The latest purchase could be another step in bringing new investors to the community, said Jim Holt, a longtime director of the Watson Lake Chamber of Commerce.

"We're glad to see some new money in town and some new things being done with the hotels," said Holt, who operates the local insurance agency. "We're looking forward to the new expertise that they are bringing into the community to operate and manage these places.

"What they're doing is what a number of First Nation groups are doing throughout the country, and that is they're taking a hold of their own destiny to get involved in the economics of an area."

A website for the three Watson Lake hotels shows they include almost 150 rooms, three restaurants and three licenced bars.

Holt said that earlier this year, the First Nation purchased a large apartment block in the same town.