Transformative. That’s what the Tahoe Blue Center in Stateline is likely to be for the entire South Shore when it opens this summer.

A February financial study projects the venue will bring $75 million annually to the region. In addition to rental fees and expenditures onsite, the influx of cash will come off property from lodging (primarily at the casinos), retail, and dining. Financial benefits include jobs and those people then spending their earnings at local businesses.

While it’s in Nevada, right on Highway 50, almost looking like a modern extension of Bally’s, the desire is for the center to be used by locals and out-of-towners.

Barton Foundation is staging its Boots, Buckles & Bling event at the facility on Aug. 26 and Soroptimist International of South Lake Tahoe is hosting its 50th wine tasting there Nov. 3.

More than 20 events (that haven’t been disclosed) have been booked across 48 days through June 30, 2024. Most are between July and November this year. One meeting is scheduled for 2028.

“I feel we are going to be very busy in August with smaller events. September, October, and November will be very busy for us. A big part of our goal is to drive that meeting business during the shoulder season,” Kevin Boryczki, general manager of Tahoe Blue Center, said. OVG360 is the center’s management company.

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency permit caps the number of events at 130, with event days being 220.

Tahoe Blue Center in Stateline is close to opening. Photo/Bill O’Malley/March 2023

The bottom line

 The event center is owned by the Tahoe Douglas Visitors Authority. Edgewood Companies donated the land, which was casino parking, to TDVA.

Douglas County created a redevelopment area several years ago in Stateline that creates a mechanism to garner property tax dollars to help fund projects like the event center. The tax increment that will top out at $3 million a year will help pay the annual bond debt of about $6 million, which will be paid over 27 years.

When construction started in July 2020 the build-out was a couple years. But the project had to be shut down a few times because of the pandemic, supply chain issues, evacuations and smoke in 2021 because of the Caldor Fire, and weather.

All of that plus the price of goods dramatically escalating have pushed the original project cost of $86 million to more than $100 million.

“Construction just went through the roof and then we had this winter. We have had snow removal days we were not counting on,” Carol Chaplin, TDVA executive director and CEO, said. “We have taken some stuff out. We did things like redesigning the locker rooms, and we changed the furnishings inside.”

This was all to help curtail the ballooning budget.

Meetings will bring in a defined revenue, whereas profits from a concert or other event is dependent on ticket sales. (The venue will be using Ticketmaster.)

Food and beverage will be operated in-house by OVG360, with an executive chef on staff. Local restaurants may have a presence, but no deals have been executed.

Tahoe Blue Vodka paid $3.7 million for a 10-year contract for naming rights.

OVG360 has a five-year contract to run the site, with an option for another five. The base fee paid by TDVA is $5,000 a month preopening and $10,000 a month once opened. The operator then makes more money based on bookings, and food and beverage sales.

More than a dozen private seats above the stadium level are nearly sold out. On average they accommodate 14 people. Prices vary based on time commitments (three, five or seven years), and size and location.

A few club seats remain. This gives the owner the right to the same seat for each event.

Transit and parking

                       Drivers will have to pay to park at one of the casinos because the center doesn’t have parking.

The operating permit mandates the Stateline facility provide microtransit on both sides of the state line. Operation started last year, going from the casino area to Lake Tahoe Community College. Expanding routes for this free service is possible.

Even though the TRPA permit says the bus service can be seasonal for the first five years, with year-round service after that time frame, so far it has been operating year round.

Downtowner, the same company the North Shore uses for TART Connect, is operating the buses that seat nine to 14.

The TRPA permit requires a $4 transportation fee for each person at every event. The bulk ($3) goes toward enhancing the microtransit, while the remaining $1 will be used by the TDVA to monitor vehicle miles traveled.

“This is related to our requirement to have a net zero increase on vehicle miles traveled. Microtransit and the paid parking are meant to be a deterrent to private vehicle use,” Chaplin said.

The goal is for event center attendees to stay within walking distance. Even so, studies show there is plenty of nearby parking, albeit paid, for event center patrons.

Nuts and bolts

Nothing like this exists on the South Shore. It very much looks like a miniature professional stadium and not a meeting venue. That’s because this isn’t a convention center, it’s an events center that can accommodate meetings.

Above the stadium seats are private suites.

The eagle sculpture being created by Joel Dean Stockdill and Yustina Salnikova out of junk pulled up from the depths of Lake Tahoe will be erected out front. This is a donation from the Tahoe Fund.

Full time employees will number 15, with the ranks possibly swelling to 300 depending on the event.

The quest is to have meetings/conventions in the fall and spring shoulder seasons during midweek.

“Our goal is not to take away from facilities in town or other businesses in town. Our goal to bring in new events, so our focus now is on larger conferences and they would take up the full facility,” Boryczki said.

Concerts and sporting events are more likely to be on weekends throughout the year. Hockey, basketball, volleyball, and wrestling are some of the possible sports. Tournaments, especially youth, could come here by using other facilities on the South Shore.

Other facilities OVG360 runs include the Santa Clara Convention Center, Acrisure Arena in Palm Springs and Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego.

Capacity will be based on how the venue is configured, with the largest event bringing in close to 6,000 people.

For large meetings on the first floor a curtain that can be moved at 10-foot increments can divide those in the general session from trade show/exhibitors.

On the second level are seven meeting rooms of various sizes. The two 600-square-foot rooms are visible from Highway 50. Three of the five rooms on the other side are split by air walls, thus allowing for a larger banquet-style venue.

“When you think of a convention center you never have windows and don’t know what city you are in,” Boryczki  said. “We want them to experience all the wonderful scenery we have.”

There is also 10,000 square feet of outdoor space.

“We are excited to have a building that has the flexibility to do anything,” Boryczki said.

Note: A version of this story first appeared in the Tahoe Mountain News.

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