South Lake Tahoe City Council approved a three-year agreement with the producer of SnowGlobe on Tuesday, touting the yearly festival as a successful signature event for the city.
The city will contribute an estimated $33,933 of in-kind services and cover an estimated $4,500 in bus route transportation costs and $7,750 in garbage collection costs.
The city also will start making a $25,000 cash payment to help sponsor the three-day winter festival. That cash payment was the one sticking point for Mayor Hal Cole, the only council member to vote against the agreement.
“I will vote no just for that,” Cole said.
Other council members strongly supported the three-year agreement, cash payment and all.
In its third year last December, SnowGlobe had an average 12,000 people attend each day. Ninety percent of those attendees came from outside the city and the event had an estimated $6.2 million economic impact in the city. That includes $1.8 million spent on lodging and $4.4 million spent on other purchases.
Councilman Tom Davis said South Lake Tahoe could not ask for a better event or a better promoter in Chad Donnelly. Davis said he supports the cash payment as long as the city is well represented as an event sponsor.
“Return on investment, we also have to look at that,” Davis said. “If it costs $100,000 to bring in $6 million, I’ll stand in line every day for that.”
Councilwoman Brooke Laine said SnowGlobe is exactly the type of event South Lake Tahoe wants to attract.
Laine and others praised Donnelly’s efforts to work with the city to try to prevent residential complaints, noting, in one instance, that he agreed to turn the sound down last December even when it was within an acceptable range.
“I’m supportive of your multiyear request and we as a community have to put our money where our mouth is,” Laine said. “If we want these types of events here we have to be partners.”
Donnelly said the $25,000 cash payment is a “budget reliever” for an event that has cost about $2.6 million to organize.
“We feel like the ask from our end is more than reasonable. Our goal is to be here for many years to come. We have had an opportunity to move the festival and the reality is we could get more money from a different partner, but the goal was to keep it here and thrive here,” Donnelly said.
The Community Play Field where SnowGlobe is held remains in good condition except for one heavily-used area near the parking lot. But at 10 years old, the field is outside of warranty, Parks Manager Greg Ross told the City Council.
The condition of the synthetic field will need to be assessed each year and still must be assessed after December’s festival.
SnowGlobe puts down paneling to protect the field from trucks and equipment that are heavier than it is rated for. It also pays to clean the field.
“There’s definitely wear and tear added to the field, but it has not been a significant enough impact to the field that we could say because of SnowGlobe the field’s life has been shortened,” Ross said.
The field will eventually need to be replaced. That’s estimated to cost about $500,000, but the city has about $300,000 already set aside for the project, Ross said.
A three-year agreement instead of a longer one will keep some pressure on the city to look for an alternative site for the winter festival, councilwoman Angela Swanson said.
Swanson noted the city’s contributions could be lower than estimated. That view was seconded by City Manager Nancy Kerry.
The popularity of SnowGlobe and its continuation as a New Year’s Eve celebration will let the city reduce police and fire staffing at Stateline, which is seeing fewer numbers of revelers.
“So the total staffing costs will be reduced overall,” Kerry wrote in an email after Tuesday’s meeting. “The amount of staffing, (Tahoe Transportation District) and (South Tahoe Refuse) costs we estimate will be about $25,000 and then the sponsorship of $25,000.”
With SnowGlobe a growing success, Swanson and other council members were eager to learn what it would take for Donnelly to consider bringing a summer or fall event to South Lake Tahoe.
Donnelly said he has “substantial interest” in bringing another event to the city — maybe not this year, but next. Donnelly added he has already had discussions about what kind of summer event would be most successful.
“We’re absolutely 100 percent committed to developing a concept,” Donnelly said.