Kings Beach center digs itself out of debt |

Kings Beach center digs itself out of debt

Ryan Salm/Sierra SunServices Director Nora Daniels of the Kings Beach Conference Center stands outside the center on Tuesday afternoon.

A modified business strategy for the North Tahoe Community Conference Center in Kings Beach is now beginning to pay dividends.

After streamlining the center’s rate structure and improving marketing strategies in March, North Tahoe Public Utility District officials said they were proud to report that the center has trimmed its operating deficit this fiscal year by $104,000 from last year’s operating losses.

In the 2005-06 fiscal year, the conference center lost $164,000. This year, the facility recorded a loss of $50,000, $62,000 less than projected, said utility General Manager Steve Rogers.

“The trend is actually very positive, and we may not have a deficit at the end of the year,” Rogers said.

The progress is good news to district officials. It’s a sign the facility is on its way to becoming a self-sufficient operation, relieving the financial burden placed on other district programs, mostly parks and recreation, that have subsidized the center’s deficit in the past, Rogers said.

“The problem with a deficit is [that] someone’s got to plug the gap at some point,” he said.

Rogers said the center would eventually operate with a balanced budget, with a base fund to cushion the business during slow seasons.

Though rates have been raised, the price is still affordable for clients, said Conference Services Director Nora Daniels.

Staff targets clients who are searching for a lakefront venue at a reasonable rate.

“I think the results are already showing,” said Alex Mourelatos, who has participated in a task force to improve the conference center’s business strategy. “What we clearly recognize is that the conference center should focus on specific market segments that we know would value what we offer.”

Amid the financial restructuring, the conference center has undergone managerial changes. The building is closed when not utilized, for one, and employees are now being trained in hospitality. The district intends to upgrade the center’s Web site in the coming months.

The North Tahoe district is working with the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association to develop an automated system to increase staff efficiency and reduce paper shuffling. The two organizations are also developing marketing strategies.

“We have been, historically, a marketing partner with the conference center,” said Executive Director Steve Teshara of the resort association. “They help drive [Tourist Occupancy Tax] for certain properties on the North Shore that have been the lodging base for the conference center.”

The district is in the final stages of applying for a $50,000 grant from the resort association to cover software and marketing costs.

The North Tahoe Community Conference Center is a hybrid of sorts, hosting everything from Jazzercise classes and weddings to corporate events and conventions.

Used by area residents as a recreation center and by regional clients as an affordable, lakefront facility, the center, as Rogers put it, has a schizophrenic nature.

But a new business plan requested by district directors was critical to the center’s continued operations, for both the community and clientele, officials said. The plan took a private-sector approach to a publicly owned venue.

“The conference center had been having a hard time making ends meet,” said Jennifer Merchant of the Placer County Executive Office. “I appreciate that the NTPUD has been pro-active to try and identify why that is and try to resolve those issues.”

Rogers said the conference center would be hard pressed to remain open only as a recreation facility. Social and corporate events help provide enough revenue to keep the facility open and available to community use.

“Basically, part of our philosophy was everybody had to kick in a little bit more,” Rogers said.

North Tahoe district residents and business owners were subjected to higher fees, but they still benefit from a preferred rate structure, Rogers said.

“The community needs to understand that this facility is a significant contributor to the economic standing of this community,” Rogers said.

He noted that events hosted at the Kings Beach conference center draw hundreds of visitors into the area, who spend their money at nearby lodging, restaurants and shops.

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