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Tahoe Queen return adds to Ski Run face-lift

Same boat, new face.

That, in a nutshell, may describe the scene this summer at Ski Run Marina with the first phase of a multimillion-dollar renovation nearing completion.

As negotiations continue to bring the Tahoe Queen back to its South Lake Tahoe port, marina owners Michael Phillips and Dena Schwarte expect the site’s new shopping center to open on June 15.



The 31,000-square-foot commercial facility includes an upscale restaurant that is not expected to open until September.

The marina owners have already lined up tenants – primarily local businesses – for about 80 percent of the shops set to open in June, Schwarte said.




Plans call for the demolition of the marina parking lot after the May 1 start of the Tahoe Basin grading season.

The new parking lot will be located about 50 yards south of the existing lot – between the shopping center and the gas station on the corner of Ski Run Boulevard and U.S. Highway 50.

Phillips estimated the total costs of the first phase of renovation at more than $6 million.

Schwarte said permit applications are planned for a second phase including improvements to the harbor and a possible pier extension.

Hornblower Dining Yachts President Terry MacRae last week said he anticipates resuming Tahoe Queen operations at Ski Run Marina in mid-May.

Lake Tahoe Cruises built the vessel at the marina in 1983 and operated tours until its eviction in February after Phillips refused to extend the company a new lease this year.

“We’re excited to have (the Tahoe Queen) back,” Phillips said. “It provides a benefit to the community.”

He declined to comment about circumstances related to the Feb. 26 assault on him by former Lake Tahoe Cruises President Joe Thiemann, who was killed during the attack inside Phillips’ house.

Besides bringing back the Tahoe Queen, Hornblower officials are reportedly interested in starting passenger ferry service between the marina and Tahoe City.

The proposal will likely meet opposition from Travel Systems Ltd., the company which operates the M.S. Dixie II out of Zephyr Cove Marina – particularly if the ferry service receives federal or state operating subsidies.

Lake Tahoe Cruises and Travel Systems have traditionally opposed a subsidized ferry service – primarily because public assistance allows boat trips at lower costs than privately operated tours.

“It (subsidized passenger ferries) is using government money to take our legs out from underneath us,” Bill Chernock, director of marketing for Travel Systems, said on Tuesday.

Hornblower officials could not be reached for comment on their plans.

However, Phillips, also on Tuesday, said subsidies will be explored, but he thinks ferries between Ski Run Marina and Tahoe City could succeed without government assistance.

“We think there’s a market out there that could support (passenger ferries) on its own,” he said.


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