50,000 expected at Stateline | TahoeDailyTribune.com

50,000 expected at Stateline

It’s that time of year again.

South Shore businesses and law enforcement agencies are using heavy traffic and booked hotels as indicators the New Year’s Eve celebration at Stateline will host the usual 50,000 people despite wet weather.

Casinos such as Horizon Casino Resort reported no vacancy for its 539 rooms, while Best Western Station House Inn on Park Avenue said its 100 rooms are filled.

“I prefer for it to fall on a Wednesday,” said Eric Eymann, general manager of the hotel. “Tuesdays and Wednesdays are perfect timing. On Friday and Saturday you already have bookings.”

Eymann said the front desk has been receiving 50 calls an hour. It’s good news since the hotel lost about 10 to 20 reservations last weekend due to a storm that dropped about 2 feet of snow and closed Highway 50 at the summit. While snow deterred some people, it hasn’t scared one segment of the population.

“Our European market is back,” Eymann said. “They stay longer than the Bay Area (people). It’s been great for us.”

Bill Chernook, executive director of Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, said the weather conditions could be unattractive for people who drive up New Year’s Eve then turn around after the celebration is over.

“It’s a classic winter at Tahoe,” Chernook said. “It’s a double-edged sword: weather tells people we’ll have great ski conditions, but it also tells them it’s hard to get here.”

Chernook was not pessimistic about the the number of people headed this way since road warriors and air travelers do what they can to make it to Tahoe for New Year’s Eve. Weekend holidays see more out-of-state travelers and longer minimums on lodging while weekday celebrations entice people to drive to Tahoe, he said.

“New Year’s Eve is one of those holidays where some segment of the market is going to fill us up,” Chernook said.

Meanwhile, preparations were being made prior to the casino corridor being filled up late tonight. Scott Sheen was seen across from Harveys Resort Casino selling beads with his brother.

Harveys’ employees covered their parking garage sign to repel sign squatters. Harrah’s Lake Tahoe covered the Pony Express statue near the entrance.

Law enforcement departments including South Lake Tahoe police and sheriff’s departments in Douglas and El Dorado counties will receive help from the California Highway Patrol, Nevada Highway Patrol and Alcohol Beverage Control.

CHP requested assistance of about 20 officers from stations in Truckee and Chico, Officer Sherry Reehl said.

In his 20 years of handling the New Year’s Eve celebrations at Stateline, Douglas County sheriff’s Sgt. Lance Modispacher remembered the times when officers tried to keep the street open and alcohol was not banned.

Using his best recollection, Modispacher said during the late 1980s authorities closed down Highway 50 at Stateline after crowds became too large. Alcohol was banned after a magnum champagne bottle was thrown and hit an officer in the head. He was shaken but uninjured because he was wearing a helmet, Modispacher said.

Authorities — about 100 to 125 in the corridor — attempt to keep the crowd to a low roar by shaking hands and taking pictures with partygoers.

“When you have the non-confrontation attitude, it just moves to them,” Modispacher said. “You smile instead of frown, shake their hand and don’t wave a baton and everybody goes home happy except for the 50 that (get detained) and spend the night in the bucket.”

— Contact William Ferchland at wferchland@tahoedailytribune.com

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