Economic uncertainty looms when Ponderosa closes | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Economic uncertainty looms when Ponderosa closes

Jack Carrerow

INCLINE VILLAGE – While the permanent closing of the Ponderosa Ranch at the end of the season has caused many baby boomers to wax nostalgic, the reality may cause the local economy to shed some tears as well, but no one seems to know yet for sure.

While thousands visit the Ponderosa every summer, some frequent Lake Tahoe area businesses during their stay, but the impact of the ranch’s closing on the local economy may take a while to gauge, tourism officials say.

“We can’t help but acknowledge the possible impact on businesses that is coming, but there’s no way to put a price tag on it as yet,” said Jim Jeffers, executive director of the Incline Village/Crystal Bay Chamber of Commerce.

Merchants at this point have no idea how the absence of the ranch as a major draw will effect their businesses, he said.

“The Ponderosa has been a draw in the area since 1967, so we have nothing to base them not being here on other than their off-season but, that’s when the winter ski season starts and there’s not much of a drop off,” Jeffers said.

What is easy to gauge is the influx of tourists from around the world coming to the area for their last look at the fabled ranch.

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“We came here especially for this,” Hemet, Calif. resident Richie Dambrosio said as he exited the ranch with friends. “I’ve always driven by here, but when I heard it was closing, I had to see it.”

Asked if he was headed into Incline Village, Dambrosio answered the group was on its way to Virginia City.

“We weren’t planning a visit to the ranch with our grandkids until next year,” Bay Area resident Michael Minchner said. “But we’ll get a chance to show it to them for the first time and take a last look ourselves.”

Minchner, a mountain biker who enjoys tours around the lake, said that since he and his family usually stay in Truckee, they have no plans to return to the Incline area after it closes.

Tracey Reinhard, who mans the information booth at the ranch entrance, said many visitors have asked for directions to other places around the lake, but very few stay in the Incline area.

“We might get one or two requests for dinner recommendations, but our visitors are mostly passing through,” Reinhard said.

As for how the closure may have an impact on the Hyatt Lake Tahoe Resort, senior sales manager Monty Deemer said it will be minimal.

“The ranch is an attraction, no doubt about it,” Deemer said. “But most of our convention groups or parties, while they may visit the ranch, come for the other amenities the hotel and the lake have to offer.”

So, as the ranch approaches its final days, Incline Village can just sit and wait to see what things will be like a year from now.

“We have no idea what the future of the ranch will be,” Jeffers said. “But maybe the new owner will think about keeping at least the western town open.”