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NTPUD Considers Partnership for Struggling Event Center

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The North Tahoe Event Center in Kings Beach has been operating at an annual average loss to the tune of $170,000 for the past 10 years. Its owner, the North Tahoe Public Utility District, has been trying to keep the center afloat during that time, and most recently considered a tax increase to its residents. Enter San Francisco-based Laulima Partners, which closes escrow on the neighboring Ferrari Crown Motel in April.

Laulima Partners has expressed interest in creating a public/private partnership with the NTPUD to substantially renovate the aging building and manage the event center. While a formal proposal will not be submitted to the district until the end of March, Laulima Partners Managing Partner David Bouquillon said he envisions replacing the existing structure and building a two-story, 28,0000–square-foot “world class event center” that would draw visitors from across the West and include a restaurant. Laulima would bear the brunt of all building, operating, and maintenance costs, and pay rent to the NTPUD, as well as market the event center and cover all losses.

“If we can legally assure we can meet our needs, then there is no reason we can’t look seriously at any opportunity that comes along,” said NTPUD General Manager Duane Whitelaw, noting that the building is deed restricted and must remain in the hands of the district for park purposes, or the ownership would revert back to the state. “We would eliminate the loss and the community gets a new building.”

For the 2014/2015 fiscal year, the North Tahoe Event Center brought in $238,844, but expended $457,892, resulting in a $219,000 loss for the district that year. NTPUD CFO Larry Marple said the event center has been losing money every year for at least the past 10 years, except in 2012 when there was a modest profit. The center, which is a former bowling alley, is underutilized, and had 76 events last year, Whitelaw said.

Two community meetings were held in February to introduce the project and to get input from the public. Both meetings were well attended, and community members voiced their concerns, including questioning the developer’s intentions and why the district is even considering this partnership.

“This is short-sided, premature, and a huge mistake,” said resident Regina Straver during a Feb. 25 joint meeting of the NTPUD board and recreation and parks commission. “I hate to see this building given away so soon.”

However, Recreation and Parks Commissioner Alex Mourelatos stated that the commission has “put in considerable efforts to make the community better and to try to fix the problem.” He said the district’s park and rec. department has been running on a deficit and that the partnership with Laulima offers a chance to address solutions.

“This community has been handcuffed to develop any programs to speak of to help offset the deficit. We cannot continue to run a park and rec. program in its current state,” Mourelatos said during the meeting. “It is this asset [the event center] that consistently sucks funds out of the rest of the area.”

Other community members urged the board to seriously consider Laulima’s proposal.

“This has the opportunity to be a great opportunity for not only Kings Beach, but all of North Lake Tahoe,” Truckee resident Jake Hudson told the board. “The NTPUD would be letting down rate payers not to give this a chance.”                                               

Bouquillon said the Ferrari Motel project is not contingent upon the event center partnership, but did say if the deal does not happen with the NTPUD then the hotel project will include event space.

“What people need to run a quality events center, that building lacks,” Bouquillon said of the current North Tahoe Event Center. “We’re excited to be in the community. We invested in the Ferrari property because of the property. And regardless of the decision [to partner with the NTPUD], we will have event space.”

The NTPUD board will discuss this matter at its March 8 board meeting. For more information, visit ntpud.org.

Read more about this issue in Moonshine’s print edition that hits stands March 11.

 
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September 14, 2017