Marina fee increase forces cancellation of 2017 South Tahoe Wooden Boat Classic |

Marina fee increase forces cancellation of 2017 South Tahoe Wooden Boat Classic

After nine years of bringing boat enthusiasts to the South Shore, all while generating money for local nonprofits, the South Tahoe Wooden Boat Classic is in jeopardy of folding due to an inability to reach reasonable terms with the Tahoe Keys Marina & Yacht Club.

Event organizers with the Northern California / Lake Tahoe chapter of the Antique and Classic Boat Society announced on March 13 that they were canceling the event for 2017. In a press release, the group cited an inability to come to terms on “financial cost, use of the parking, docks or space for vendors and displays.” That and a lack of other options could ultimately mean the end of the event, which brought several thousand people to the marina in 2016.

“To say we are disappointed would be an understatement,” Jared Hein, co-chair of the event, said in the press release.

Organizers were not the only people disappointed. Earlier this week, South Lake Tahoe City Councilman Tom Davis decided to get involved. Davis, a boat enthusiast who said he has no financial ties or connection to the marina or the boat group, was dismayed to hear the event was being shelved this year.

He reached out to people with the marina and people with the boat society to see if the two could reach some agreement and continue an event that is “good” for South Lake Tahoe and an event that continues to grow each year.

“I’m just a community person saying ‘hey, can we save this? This is a good event for our community, can we make it work?’” Davis told the Tribune.

It’s unclear if he will have any success.

There have been hurdles since the event was created around 10 years ago, but organizers and the marina were always able to work those out, Steve Caplan, another co-chair of the event, told the Tribune. However, that all unraveled this winter with the marina setting terms that Caplan said were unrealistic and seemed to be designed with the goal of booting the boat show.

On one end, the marina increased rates and fees that would raise the overall cost of the event by approximately $15,000.

“We figured out how we could make the show work and do that,” Caplan said.

But then on the other end, the marina wanted all the money to be paid prior to the event, which had never been done before, according to Caplan. With admission being the primary revenue generator, there was no way the group could pay the increased amount prior to the event.

“That was the thing that really popped the balloon … we couldn’t make it happen,” Caplan said. “This was just totally over the top and totally unexpected.”

Multiple attempts to reach Robert Spinnato, general manager for Tahoe Keys Marina, Thursday were unsuccessful.

Since its inception, the goal of the show has been to educate the public on the historical significance of classic boats, according to the press release from the Northern California / Lake Tahoe chapter of the Antique and Classic Boat Society.

In addition to that mission, the show also acted as a fundraiser for charitable donations to local nonprofits, such as the Sierra State Park Foundation, Boys & Girls Club of Lake Tahoe, Tahoe Maritime Museum, Tahoe Tallac Association and others. The South Tahoe Wooden Boat Classic has raised more than $85,000 for local charities since 2008, according to the press release.

As for the likelihood of the event continuing, Caplan said that hinges on whether or not the organizers and marina can reach an agreement in the future.

The timing and location of the South Tahoe Wooden Boat Classic worked perfectly, largely because it avoided conflicting with the Concours d’Elegance on the West Shore. There just aren’t many places around the lake, particularly on the South Shore, that could host such an event.

“It’s a difficult thing, finding a location, and it just doesn’t really exist,” Caplan said.

However, the group is open to suggestions and always seeking new members, Caplan added. More information can be found at

Although he’s uncertain if playing the role of mediator will lead to a positive outcome, Davis said he hopes the event survives.

“They’re at a critical point,” he said. “They’re almost at the point of no return.”

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