Thunderbird Lodge closes in on funding goal | SierraSun.com

Thunderbird Lodge closes in on funding goal

Kyle Magin
Sun News Service

A major donor is stepping forward to underwrite a majority of a $5 million endowment fund for the historic Thunderbird Lodge.

The lodge’s preservation society was charged with raising $5 million by June 20 in order for Michigan-based Pulte Homes to forgive a $10 million lien placed on the property.

The $5 million will go into a endowment fund, said Bill Watson, the manager and curator of the estate, which should pay out $200,000 to $300,000 per year in interest for upkeep of the 72-year-old property formerly owned by George Whittell. Pulte Homes has agreed to forgive the lien if the $5 million endowment fund is raised by June 20. If that occurs, the Thunderbird Lodge Preservation Society would hold an unencumbered deed to the historic property.

Pulte did not immediately return calls Monday and Tuesday regarding this story.

Watson said an anonymous donor stepped forward Tuesday to fund a majority of the endowment. Watson originally set a June 1 deadline for raising the funds, he said, so he would have time to assess the situation in preparation of the June 20 deadline in case the lodge came up short in its fundraising drive.

“I am cautiously optimistic the Preservation Society will meet the deadline thanks to the generosity of a significant donor underwriting the majority of the endowment,” Watson said. “Other Preservation Society donors must still chip in millions, and we are presently tallying up the pledges and payments. Pulte Homes is cooperating to ensure we bring this campaign to a timely and successful close.”

How much the donor will need to underwrite is still up in the air, Watson said, as many donations were given in stock, and the changing nature of the market makes a firm assessment of a stock’s value difficult.

Some of the donations had to be divested immediately, Watson said, while some can be held until the market is promising or when the June 20 deadline arrives.

Tony Addario, a part-time Incline resident and Thunderbird donor, said getting the deed to the property is the first step in making upgrades to the estate.

“One of the things we can start to take care of once we have the deed is upkeep, such as completing the fire suppression system at the lodge, restoring the pools and ponds, a lot of deferred maintenance,” Addario said.

Without the lien, it will be easier for the lodge to embark on a capital funds drive, Addario said, since the lodge will have clear title to the property.

“Setting up the endowment is really just the first step,” Addario said.

He said he felt compelled to donate to the lodge after he and his wife moved to Incline a few years ago and toured the property.

“We fell in love with the surroundings and the story,” Addario said. “The story of the Whittells and a lot of people like them at that point in time was fascinating.”