Former Google engineer’s gift to Kahle Center surprises officials |

Former Google engineer’s gift to Kahle Center surprises officials

Jeff Munson

Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune/ Jim Hewitt from Stateline works out Tuesday at the Kahle Community Center. A recent donation will allow an expansion of weight-training and cardio areas.

The former Google engineer who stunned Douglas County school officials by donating $1 million to its valley high school’s ongoing fundraiser to upgrade its track and field, has now given $200,000 to Douglas County Parks and Recreation to expand the weight room facility at Kahle Community Center.

Ray Sidney, owner of Big George Ventures, a Douglas County land development company, presented the large donation to parks and recreation officials last week. The Stateline resident uses the facility often and saw a need for more weight room equipment.

Sidney had expressed to Kahle personnel that he would like to see more cardiovascular machines and some other purchases for the weight room.

The donation comes with no strings and Kahle can do with the money as it pleases, said Robbe Lehmann, project manager for Big George Ventures.

“Whether it is building quality houses where people would really like to live or donating to worthy causes, Big George is dedicated to keeping our community and county a beautiful and wonderful place to live,” Lehmann said by e-mail.

Sidney was unavailable for comment.

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Parks and recreation officials had long recognized a need for weight room upgrades but were strapped for cash to make the expensive purchases.

“To be quite honest, we were shocked. We had to pinch ourselves to make sure this wasn’t a dream,” said Parks and Recreation Director Scott Morgan. ‘It was our goal to expand the building since the day we opened. It was perfect timing and we are deeply appreciative of his donation.”

The donation will be presented to the Douglas County Commission for approval April 6.

In a twist to Sidney’s donation, the original architect of the 11-year-old Kahle Community Center – Eissmann Pence – announced he would donate his services free of charge in building a 900- to 1,000-square-foot expansion onto the 2,500-square-foot weight room to allow for the new equipment.

Design for the expansion is already under way. Construction could begin by summer with the addition completed by fall, Morgan said. The new wing would add more room to the weight facility. Morgan said the expansion could handle the extra capacity, with its locker room, restrooms and parking.

Four years ago the Herbig family donated land for Herbig Park in Gardnerville where the skatepark is located. Also, Anita Stodick donated four acres for Stodick Park, also in Gardnerville. Even the site of Kahle Community Center was considered a donation, when Oliver Kahle sold Douglas County the 19-acre site at a substantially reduced amount, Morgan said.

Reached Tuesday, Douglas County Commissioner Tim Smith, whose district includes Lake Tahoe, thanked Sidney for the donation.

“Quite frankly, this kind of donation is overwhelming. Clearly he has an interest in doing good things for Douglas County.

“Parks and rec is always looked at as a nonessential service like police, fire and medical where budgets are usually the first to suffer cutbacks. So, a donation like this allows us to realize what may often be consider just dream (projects),” Smith said. “Now the county can move forward as an obvious benefit to us, especially those in the Tahoe Township.”

According to his Web site, Sidney grew up in Storrs, Conn. He graduated from high school in 1987. He spent his freshman year of college at Caltech and then transferred to Harvard, from which he graduated in 1991 with a bachelors degree in mathematics.

Afterwards he went to the Massachussetts Institute of Technology for graduate school, and obtained his doctorate in mathematics in 1995.

His graduate work was actually theoretical computer science “cryptography, to be more specific,” his Web site states.

Since finishing his graduate work he’s worked for several companies, including Google from 1999 to 2003.