Delays set opening back for Topaz Lodge

The whir of saws and pounding of hammers were an audible testament to the labor-intensive job being performed at the Topaz Lodge and casino Wednesday.

More than 40 workers from Q&D Construction and Mountain View Electrical, along with workers from the Lodge's regular staff, have been furiously attemping to get the building back in shape.

Initially, the owners hoped to see the lodge open by Memorial Day weekend but material deliveries, work hours and worker availability has pushed back the targeted reopening to the week leading up to Father's Day, June 12-15.

"Construction has been going on six days a week and 10 hours a day," General Manager Rick Ross said from his temporary office, located in Room 4, a part of the accommodations offered by the lodge when it had its grand opening, June 1, 1953.

" I am constantly being quizzed about when the lodge might reopen," Ross said. "It just got to the point with all the obstacles we faced that the Memorial weekend was an unreachable date."

The fire damage was minimal thanks to the rapid four minute response of Topaz Lake Volunteer Fire Department, Station 5, along with responders from Topaz Ranch Estates, Ruhenstroth, Fish Springs, Minden, Gardnerville and the Gardnerville Ranchos but the water and smoke damage was extensive.

The whole interior had to be gutted from floor to ceiling.

All the machines and gaming equipment on the casino floor received some water and smoke damage. Some were salvagable but a lot will need to be replaced.

"If the TLVFD had taken any more than four minutes to respond to the calls for help, Topaz Lodge would have surely burned to the ground on April 3," Ross said.

Ross praised the help and support from the Topaz Lodge employees and the community who have rallied in support of the lodge re-construction after the April 3 fire, centered in the casino's third floor surveillance room on the northeastern part of the building.

An electrical short has been determined as the cause of the fire.

Regular customers have been loyal and the lodge has done everything to meet their needs. Even without the gaming facilities and restaurants, the faithful flock to Topaz Lake for recreation. Rooms are available at a reduced price.

Scott Balog, a Holbrook resident employed as a porter at the lodge, now works security to make sure no unauthorized personnel enters the lodge.

"I'm just waiting to see what it is all going to look like when it is done," he said. "They are doing such a good job of trying to keep everyone (the employees) as busy as they can." Balog said. "There will be lots of changes.

"I was here when the fire started. I have never been somewhere and had to leave because a building was on fire. It was really scary," he said.

The lodge will still maintain its "lodge atmosphere" according to Ross.

"Only, maybe even more enhanced," he said.

Kathy Hammill, an artist from Carson City, has been commissioned to add murals to the walls, giving depth, to what was already there. At the entrance of the Lakeview Restaurant and Coffee Shop, where a scaled down version of a stage coach was displayed, a mural will now be in the background showing Nevada and giving the feeling of Topaz Lodge as a stage stop along its route.

Along the main staircase leading to the lower level restaurant, bar and buffet area, underneath the massive antler chandelier, still intact after the fire and water damage, murals of mountains and trees, seen on the eastern slopes of the Sierra, will adorn the staircase and lower levels. The knotty pine theme of the lodge will still prevail.

"The public will be pleasantly surprised when they walk in and see it for the first time," Ross said.

A celebration is being planned for the re-opening of the lodge with entertainment, food and fun to honor and thank all that have supported and helped the lodge through this process.


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