The Sandia Peak Tram’s upper terminal building has been razed and a more modern version is expected to be opened at the end of May.
The project is in anticipation of the tram’s 50th anniversary in 2016.
“The upper terminal has been there for 48 years, so it’s about time to upgrade it,” assistant manager Jay Blackwood said. “It’s been more or less an original building up there and it’s time to stay up with the times.”
Bringing the terminal into the 21st century means there will be heating coils in the floor, more windows for eastern- and western-facing views, relocation of the bathrooms and an overall expansion compared to the original structure.
Blackwood said the tram will reopen today after regularly scheduled maintenance, but the upper terminal building will be out of commission for at least another month. The tram closes twice a year for two weeks to ensure everything is working properly, but took off three weeks this spring to accommodate the construction.
Blackwood said a temporary building has been erected and “there will be a construction wall all across the front where the old building used to be. Basically, we are going to have the month of May where the upper terminal building is not accessible.”
The High Finance restaurant and hiking trails will remain open, and portable restrooms will be provided until the renovations are completed. Blackwood said April isn’t a particularly busy time for tourism beyond school groups, so he doesn’t expect the closures to have a significant impact on attendance.
Sandia Peak Tram Co. had planned on renovating three years ago to coincide with its 45-year anniversary, but fears of forest fires prevented the project from moving forward.
“We were working closely together,” said Bob Heiar, recreation program manager for the Sandia Ranger District. “It was mutually decided because the fire danger was so high last spring and early summer that it wasn’t the best idea to start the project and then have to shut down if they had to use welding equipment, which could pose a potential fire risk. They decided to delay until this year when, hopefully, conditions are better. With the pretty good precipitation we got this spring, that was a pretty good call.”
When the area closes due to elevated fire risk – as it has two out of the past three years – visitors can still take the tram to the terminal but cannot hike off the premises.