If chambers merge, office would be in Nevada | TahoeDailyTribune.com

If chambers merge, office would be in Nevada

Susan Wood

If the two Tahoe chambers of commerce merge next Tuesday, the combined group will have a new home by November in a quasi musical chairs of funding and offices.

One executive director will run the chamber from the main office to be built at Edgewood Village at the busy intersection of Highway 50 and Kingsbury Grade in Nevada.

The three-story structure would house a visitor center on the bottom floor, conference space in the middle and offices on the top where the chamber, Douglas County administration and the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority will move by November.

The estimated lease will run $286,000 a year. Lakeside Inn and Casino chief Mike Bradford, who’s spearheading the merger as the South Lake Tahoe Chamber president, outlined a plan in which money from the LTVA, Tahoe Douglas Chamber, the Tahoe Transportation District and Douglas County would be channeled into paying for the lease.

The LTVA would sell its building on Ski Run Boulevard, a structure last assessed four years ago at $400,000.

LTVA shares the building with the Tahoe Arts Project, a nonprofit arts organization. After 12 years, Executive Director Peggy Thompson said she’s unsure where TAP would move.

“I don’t want to even think about it. Maybe the buyer would let me stay there,” Thompson said. She also mentioned the idea of taking over a classroom at the former Al Tahoe Elementary School. Otherwise, her home office seemed out of the question as a long-term solution.

Proceeds from the Ski Run building sale would go toward a structural upgrade of the South Lake Tahoe Chamber’s building on Lake Tahoe Boulevard across from the Tahoe Daily Tribune. That office would turn into an expanded visitor center with restrooms and interactive displays, which are common in national parks.

Tahoe visitor centers are expected to erect displays that pick up the Blue World theme, the $1 million promotional campaign that sells the lake with its dominant color.

Instead of the chambers operating the visitor centers, the merger would shift responsibility to the LTVA – which operates on a budget of $2.3 million. Executive Director Patrick Kaler said he plans to hire a director of information services to run them.

Bradford said the merger would probably involve the board selecting a personnel committee to appoint a joint chamber executive director, but this person appears to be Duane Wallace.

“I can’t think of anybody who would be better suited than someone with the qualities Duane has exhibited,” Bradford said.

South Lake Tahoe Chamber board member Tom Davis said he’d like to see the executive director on the California side to provide representation to a 950-business membership. He has expressed reservations about having the main office in Nevada.

“I want to keep the chamber separate from LTVA. Let them sign the lease,” he said.

But the merger advocates may have other plans for the South Lake Tahoe chamber building. The location represents an ideal spot for a beefed-up visitor center. This is in addition to the one planned in the upcoming Edgewood Village building where the chamber main office would be staffed. Another visitor center run by the U.S. Forest Service is going in at the transit station in the Marriott-anchored Heavenly Village complex. And the one in Meyers is due for an overhaul.

Wallace and Bradford agree establishing this many visitor centers is not overkill because of the traffic patterns of tourists.

“People recreate in different ways,” Wallace said.

Bradford said some people who visit the east side of the South Shore never make it as far west as midtown where the South Lake Tahoe chamber offices are located, much less Meyers.

New chamber office?

Estimated lease at Edgewood Village: $286,000 a year

Paid for by:

— Douglas County administration: $100,000

— Tahoe Douglas Chamber funding from Douglas County for operation of visitor center and TDVA/LTVA: $150,000

— Tahoe Transportation District: $36,000

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