Meet WSW Managing Director, Peter Magnisalis
Meet Peter Magnisalis: Winter sports resort developer who can’t ski
He’s about to lodge one of the biggest, most expensive development applications in Western Sydney.
His Winter Sports World will change the perception of his hometown and attract leisure seekers and elite sportspeople from around the globe.
Yet Peter Magnisalis is most excited about the jobs his "giant esky" will create for locals and the economic boon it will bring.
The state significant development application will be lodged with the NSW Department of Planning and Environment in November for Australia’s first indoor snow resort and alpine winter attraction, due to open in 2025.
Magnisalis, 46, has a degree in construction management, but was no snow expert when he floated the ambitious idea.
He began his career working with his bricklayer father in the school holidays.
"My dad worked very hard from dawn until the sun went down and believed that this is how life is. That gave me the drive to continuously challenge the status quo."
He enrolled in university and worked part-time as a builder at Ian Cubbitt’s Classic Home Renovations at Marayong (now Emu Plains) for two years. He also helped established their systems and began managing renovation projects.
Armed with a full builder’s license and youthful confidence, "I decided that I knew it all’’ and founded his own renovations business, Prestige Home Improvements, at age 23.
With no architect on staff, Magnisalis hand drew all designs himself. If a sub-contractor didn’t turn up, he did the work himself.
"I learnt persistence – there’s always problems but you just have to keep going and find a solution.
"I keep pushing boundaries, and I’ve learned to understand my weaknesses and that I can’t do everything, so I surround myself with good people who can do the things I can’t."
He completed 11 jobs in two years, yet "about 12 to 18 months in, I had a lightbulb moment: maybe I didn’t know everything", so he joined John Holland Group to learn about big scale infrastructure, engineering and major development.
In the nearly 25 years since, Magnisalis has built large scale residential, aged care, retirement living, special and mixed-use developments working with Anglicare Retirement Villages, MJH Group, PBS Property Group, St Basil’s Aged Care and Abi Group.
Specialising in end-to-end development, he introduced pet friendly living in aged care and solar power to retirement living, has operated caravan parks and built housing estates and motels.
A lifetime Penrith resident, Magnisalis has a passion for the area and is proud that Winter Sports World throughout its operating life will generate more than 1350 jobs on completion and inject more than $220 million into the Western Sydney economy each year.
Seven years after dreaming up Winter Sports World, he has researched the top 45 indoor snow centres in the world and has visited various in Dubai, Europe and the United Kingdom, and knows the secrets to their success and failures.
Magnisalis has also done the math.
More than 50 per cent of Australians have visited the ski fields during their lifetime with around only 1 million people who ski regularly.
There is a large portion of people who don’t go to the ski fields because it is too difficult or expensive for them to do so.
Winter Sports World will cater for everyone, from the first-time snow experience to learning to ski or snowboard and regular skiers and elite athletes.
"We’re not even talking about the international visitors who will come to Penrith, especially when the new Western Sydney International Airport opens 15km up the road."
Magnisalis gave up his job about three and a half years ago to work full-time on Winter Sports World.
"I now live and breathe" the development that will help change the traditional perception of Penrith, the town he was raised in.
"This is not a local thing. This is a national offering, an international attraction."
Magnisalis bought the WSW 2.35ha property with an inkling it would eventually be rezoned by Penrith City Council.
That happened in 2015, much sooner than he expected. The property is included in the vibrant Riverlink Tourism Precinct along Tench Reserve.
He settled on the idea of an indoor snow resort because "Penrith deserves something extraordinary, Penrith deserves the best".
While tourism is a new genre for him, "the principles are similar in terms of researching the market and knowing the market", he says.
"I don’t consider myself a developer anymore – I’m an operator who happens to be building my development.
"I've tried to be as objective as possible. I've said to myself many times: `If I had any land in Sydney, where would I put it?’.
"It always comes back to: `There's no better place to put it, the first one in Australia, than here’.
"We’re so close to the new airport, and halfway between the Blue Mountains and Sydney CBD and just off the M4 Motorway belt.
"I’m the person you need to excite about Winter Sports World because I'm the least excitable person about snow.
"I wasn’t brought up with snow. I didn’t have the opportunity to go to the snow when I was young and it was too adventurous for me to get to when I had a family of my own.
"But Australians generally love the snow and it's a shame they don’t have more opportunities to experience it."
Now all Peter Magnisalis must do is learn to ski.