Officials, businesses turn out to back Convention Center project |

Officials, businesses turn out to back Convention Center project

by Geoff Dornan

From chamber and development officials to casino and lodging executives and small business operators, and Lake Tahoe officials turned out in force Thursday to back legislation to pay for a major events center at south shore.

Senate Bill 461 would allow the Tahoe Douglas Visitors Authority to impose a $5 per night room tax on all hotel, motel and short term, vacation rentals in the Tahoe Township.

The state senate passed the bill unanimously on April 22. Douglas County has established a redevelopment area at Stateline to help pay for the center, but county commissioners Dave Nelson and John Engels oppose using public money to build the center.

Lew Feldman of Tahoe Development Co. said that would generate the estimated $91 million needed to pay off the municipal securities that would build the center. The room tax would pay off those securities over 30 years after which officials say the revenue would pay to update the center.

The center would include a hall capable of holding 6,000 people. Several officials pointed out that, at present, there is no indoor venue capable of holding anywhere near that many people.

“The center we are proposing can accommodate an incredible array of activities,” Feldman said. That includes concerts as well as sporting events, conventions and other attractions.

He said its impact would be to make south shore into a year-round attraction instead of just a couple of months in the summer when weather is good enough for outdoor concerts. Feldman said those summer events are extremely popular and have featured such top-flight performers as Lady Gaga and Sting.

With a major convention and events center, he said Stateline could become a year-round destination.

At present, he said Tahoe sees huge layoffs when the off-season hits every year, making for an unstable labor market. He said the center would fix that by providing a base to support year-round, stable jobs in an area where more than half the labor force is in the tourism and leisure industry.

The center would be built on what is now a parking lot at Mont Bleu and Highway 50, a site that was chosen unanimously by the major casino properties in the Stateline core.

The bill was backed by every casino in the Stateline core as well as other lodging properties including those across the state line California. Feldman said it has the backing of numerous small and medium sized businesses. Since construction would pay the prevailing wage for workers, it also has the backing of labor.

There was no opposition at the hearing before the Assembly Government Affairs Committee, which took no action on the legislation.