SnowGlobe, South Lake Tahoe hash out details of potential agreement |

SnowGlobe, South Lake Tahoe hash out details of potential agreement

Claire Cudahy
SnowGlobe Music Festival is entering its seventh year in South Lake Tahoe.
Claire Cudahy / Tahoe Daily Tribune |

Opinions on SnowGlobe Music Festival are mixed. But the three-day event that packs an estimated $14-million economic punch, while also garnering criticism for noise, trash and crowds, looks like it is here for the long haul.

At the Aug. 15 City Council meeting, festival staff and councilmembers discussed, at length, a proposed 10-year agreement that would eliminate the financial contribution by the city and require the producers to contribute approximately $300,000 to the city over the course of the deal.

In 2016, City Council agreed to increase its financial contribution to $35,000 with an annual increase of $5,000 up to $50,000. The city also covers trash and transportation and uses a variety of staff leading up to and during the event.

The agreement, brought in front of City Council Tuesday by SnowGlobe founder Chad Donnelly, suggested adding a gradually increasing per-ticket fee starting at 50 cents and rising to $1.50 with all funds going to the city.

In exchange for the flip in financial contributions, Donnelly requested a long-term venue partnership on the city’s Community Playfield. Ultimately council agreed to draw up a five-year contract with a possible extension of another five years.

“I think a number of the issues that we’ve addressed over the years — sound and traffic — I think we’ve done a good job of responding to those, and what this 10-year agreement would allow us to do is invest in the success of this event,” said Donnelly.

Ultimately Donnelly would like to invest in more site-specific equipment that would mitigate sound and any potential damage to the new playfield. The playfield is currently under construction and expected to be completely re-sodded by mid-September.

“I think it’s important to say that this isn’t SnowGlobe giving money to the city to then go and fix problems that SnowGlobe creates. This is over and above that,” said Taylor Storms, co-founder and principal of Orkila Capital, a New York-based investment firm. SnowGlobe is responsible for fixing any damages to the field, he added.

While several members of council expressed concern over some of the negative impacts the festival has on the community — namely trash, noise and traffic — they also praised Donnelly and his team for being responsive and continually working to improve each year, giving back to local nonprofits (almost $30,000 in 2016), and hiring local staff and vendors when possible.

“I think the benefits outweigh the concerns, but I do think the concerns are big enough that if you mitigate them it can be a really successful event going forward,” said councilmember Jason Collin.

Collin suggested the implementation of performance criteria with a yearly review. This would help establish guidelines to address problems like equipment left by vendors for several months following the festival in 2016. Donnelly said this issue stemmed from heavy snowfall following the event, which prevented the vendor from removing its equipment.

A study commissioned by SnowGlobe points to a $14-million economic impact to South Lake Tahoe and Stateline from last year’s festival. After seven years of growth, SnowGlobe now brings in nearly 20,000 attendees per day from 47 different counties. Roughly 19,000 were visitors, according to the report, who spent an average of $123 per day (plus the price of the ticket) and accounted for 65,000 visitor nights in lodgings.

Members of the South Lake Tahoe Lodging Association came to voice their support for the festival.

“The association believes this is a good event for the town … During New Year’s Eve in the past, we would have a two-day stay, and now almost every property I know has four-day stays,” said Doug Williams, vice president of the association and manager of Cedar Pines Resort. “It gives people the assurance that on a good or bad snow year, we get bookings.”

Williams also pointed out that SnowGlobe has helped address the issue that plagued Stateline during New Year’s Eve for years, when people stormed the street, forcing the closure of U.S. 50 and tying up almost all police resources.

Ultimately City Council directed City Manager Nancy Kerry bring back a new contract reflecting the proposed changes for discussion and a vote.

SnowGlobe organizers will also need to reach an agreement with Lake Tahoe Community College. Though SnowGlobe is moving its temporary event headquarters from the college’s gym to Bijou Community Park across the street, Donnelly will still need to reach an agreement with LTCC on bus drop-off areas and on-campus parking.

This year’s festival is set for Dec. 29-31.

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