Douglas County commissioners approve Tahoe event center

Rendering of the future event center at Stateline.

STATELINE, Nev. — After many meetings, many arguments and many opinions, the Douglas County Commission voted on Thursday to approve the Tahoe South Event Center project.

The project passed 3-2 with Chairman Barry Penzel, Vice Chairman Larry Walsh and Commissioner Wesley Rice voting yes.

Penzel and Commissioner Dave Nelson went back and forth throughout the meeting, with tensions running high.

Nelson reminded the commissioners that they were all Republicans that voted not to establish any new redevelopment districts but Penzel said he spoke out against that.

Prior to the discussion, more than 20 residents and business owners called in to leave public comment.

Some residents felt the events center was a waste of money or a risky decision, while others felt the center would provide the region with the additional job source and moneymaker that the region needs.

The COVID-19 crisis was also on a lot of the public’s minds during the comment period. Some people thought the commission should push off the decision until after the crisis. With the Lakeside Inn and Casino closing permanently, people thought it wouldn’t be wise to build another large facility just down the street. Others felt that because of the social distancing, people wouldn’t have the taste for big events for some time.

On the other side, some residents and business owners thought the crisis was proof that the region needs another income source. The event center is projected to bring in about 550 year-round jobs and about 800 construction jobs for two years.

In the end, the center won out, with Penzel expressing excitement on moving forward on a project that has been on people’s minds for over 20 years.

The project had jumped another hurdle on March 25 when the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency passed the project unanimously.

Commissioner Rice pointed out that the TRPA turns down a lot of projects so the fact that they unanimously passed it was a good sign.

“We’re extremely grateful to the county commissioners for their support and recognition of a project to help assure the long-term economic future of the south shore,” said Carol Chaplin, president and chief executive officer of the Tahoe Douglas Visitors Authority in a press release. “It’s been a challenging multiple year process and now we look to move forward with enthusiasm, imagination, confidence and hope to secure our future.”

Chaplin cited numerous supporters including Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, Douglas County partners, Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, Tahoe and Carson Valley chambers of commerce, businesses, community, fraternal organizations, and individuals.

More than 400 letters of support prior to the meeting flooded the Douglas County website, representing the overall community.

A petition was filed in Oct. 2019 to put the development area on the ballot in 2020. The petitioners were able to get the required 2,613 signatures.

During the meeting, commissioners were given the choice to repeal the ordinance that allows the redevelopment area in which the events center will be built, or to send the question to the ballot. The board voted unanimously to send it to the ballot.

However, even if the voters voted to dissolve the RDA, it would only prevent new projects from starting, it would not affect the events center, said Chaplin to the Tribune.

The event center is expected to break ground in June 2020 and be completed in 2022.

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