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February 18, 2014
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My Turn: Tahoe Donner is at it again

Tahoe Donner is at it again with this new Cross Country Ski Center. The last time they tried to ramrod a project through the town of Truckee, they had intentions to add massive banquet grounds to the TD Marina. Thankfully, the town said “no.”

Now they are proposing an “upgrade” to the XC center, which is silly to call it such, as it’s a total tear-down of a perfectly good building, and the construction of a 10,000 sq. ft., $6 million Taj Majal of a ski facility smack dab in the middle of a residential neighborhood.

That’s six million dollars, $600/ft, Martis Camp-quality construction — and that’s before cost overruns. All of this money to support perhaps 500 people per day on a “busy” day (holidays and weekends a few months out of the year) and probably 20 percent of that on non-busy days.

If we’re going to do this, let’s go all-in and rename Tahoe Donner to Donner Ritz, add some security gates, privatize the restaurants, a dash of apres-ski booties, and we’re there!

I’m all for the local sports kids having a terrific area to ski, but the athletes are at the mountain to ski the outdoor trails, not to lounge in the lodge, and they certainly don’t need high-end storage facilities for their equipment. 

The current board of directors is on a spending spree, buying land, $700,000 in new signage, acquiring forestry buildings, attempting to “upgrade” the TD marina and now this. Having gone to the board meetings and sent multiple letters to the board, it sure does seem this is a personal agenda to leave behind a legendary legacy of capital intensive projects.

TD cannot even tell you whether the membership wants this Taj Mahal, because there has been no formal vote. Yup — a $6M project, the elimination of an amenity, and no vote!

The only reason Tahoe Donner desires a high-end XC facility is to host more ski races and the accompanying crowds. However, the residents of Tahoe Donner not only have to pay $6M of our own money to build it, we also have to pay for the maintenance, utilities, staffing, insurance, endure the traffic and bare the cost of yet another restaurant operation.

A couple more mediocre snow years (TD downhill and XC have barely opened this year) and we’ll have the makings of a legitimate money pit. Then what? Since Tahoe Donner can’t raise dues without a vote, they might have to cut back in other areas targeting the non-money-making amenities.

Good bye equestrian, adios trails, catch you on the flip side golf course — all public amenities.

And then there is the dirty little secret of the Equestrian Center (EC) that TD is tearing down to erect the new XC center. I was shocked, as were many other TD members, to discover that TD is tearing down the EC facility with no approved plan to rebuild it, eliminating in-door boarding, eliminating a number of equestrian camps, eliminating care takers quarters, and selling off parts of the herd, let alone turning them out to pasture during construction, essentially ruining them.

Here’s a simple solution: Keep the equestrian center as-is and locate a “modest” XC center somewhere on the same parcel, something that has a smaller footprint, reasonable budget and sensible scope. Even the architects suggested this as a possible solution, but alas, this is not meant to be. The TD board of directors wants its Taj Mahal. Unless the town stands up and says “enough is enough.”

Disclosure: I am a 9-year Tahoe Donner resident and a user of both the TD equestrian and XC center. I’ve been a vocal supporter of fiduciary obligations of the board to the membership, better financial controls and the need to stop treating Tahoe Donner as a country club. 

Joe Bono is a Truckee resident.


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Feb 19, 2014 03:46PM Published Feb 19, 2014 01:32PM Copyright 2014 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.