Sports bar has donated close to $200,000 to high school athletics
[Editor’s note: This is the second installment of a three-part series about Pete ‘N Peters sports bar in Tahoe City and its involvement in the community.]
It’s hard to imagine a beneficial cause born out of a barroom sports pool, but that’s what happened on a 1983 winter day inside Pete ‘N Peters sports bar.
The grand prize was four tickets to a Boston Celtics/Golden State Warriors NBA game at The Arena in Oakland, donated by Buzz and Joan Gibb, owners of the Thunderbird Charter Service.
“We had a pool and we charged $10 a square,” said Peter Paine, who has co-owned Pete ‘N Peters since it opened in February 1976. “We raised $1,000 in the pool. Whoever won got the four tickets to go see Larry Bird play and a room down in Jack London Square.”
But the $1,000 raised was not intended for the wallet of some lucky individual, it was meant for an organization that was desperately in need of a financial boost.
“I got the $1,000, and I went up and gave it to the school [North Tahoe High School’s sports programs] to help out the kids who didn’t have anything,” Paine said.
In Paine’s mind, the ease with which that $1,000 was made was remarkable. Paine, an avid and accomplished athlete himself in his mid-40s at the time, was sensitive to the sad state of North Tahoe’s athletic funds.
“A lot of the parents, who were regular customers at the bar, would complain about how short the school was [in athletic funding],” he said. “We just did it to help the school Ð not to show up anyone.”
In his heart, this idea of giving to the community, namely youth sports, felt right; but it took a spur-of-the-moment action by Paine in the summer of 1984 to kick off the fund-raiser idea that is now a popular event in the Tahoe City area.
Every summer, as a tribute to the conclusion of softball season, Pete ‘N Peters would throw a traditional street dance celebration along with a barbecue in its business parking lot.
“We had a banquet for the softball players,” Paine recollects. “We’d throw a coupon in a wheel and we’d give away prizes and stuff. [In that summer of 1984], we were up there giving the prizes away and [non-softball players] wanted to get in the raffle. And we said, ‘It’s not that kind of a raffle. You have to play softball.'”
That’s precisely when Paine realized he could turn that original $1,000 idea into something much larger.
“I was a pro skier at one time,” Paine said. “I had a brand new pair of skis in the package [stored in the bar] and I ran out [with them] during the street dance. I went out there and we had some of those raffle tickets that come in rolls. We made $800 or some-odd dollars just like that, raffling off this pair of skis.”
And so the Pete ‘N Peters High School Sports Fund-raiser originated some 20 years ago and became an annual, traditional event. In 1984, Pete ‘N Peters provided a check written for $475 to North Tahoe’s athletic program. In 2003, the 20th annual fund-raiser saw its largest output yet Ð $19,010. In 2004, an $11,825 donation Ð an amount the fund-raiser has exceeded every year since 1995 Ð will push the total amount raised to more than $200,000.
“More and more people have wanted to contribute over the years,” said Paine, now 64. “Area businesses donate 60-75 raffle prizes every year. We have a nice area in here for the street dances, and it’s become a vehicle to help the high school sports programs.
“We give away a Hawaii trip, the [Lake Tahoe] Yacht Club gives us a booth down at the Elegant Boat Show, [and a lot of] the ski resorts give away passes. We have season passes to Squaw, season passes to Alpine [Meadows], and season passes to Homewood. The casinos help us Ð weekends in Reno at the Atlantis and Peppermill. They all jump in and help us out.”
Now, every August, the community gears up for the street dance in the Pete ‘N Peters parking lot off North Lake Boulevard. From 1984 to 1989, the fund-raiser was presented in a carnival-type atmosphere, but it started to defeat the purpose because too much time and money was going into it, rather than sticking to the original focus.
The look of the street dance may have transformed over the years, but the intention has remained the same. Paine has been strict in allocating the money fairly to each sport at the high school. It is not the only fund-raiser by any means, but it is the largest and most effective.
“The high school gets 100 percent of what we make (through the admission charge, raffle and other donations). We take nothing out. We try to keep the denominations pretty close to even, but the teams must participate in selling the tickets.”
This community event is not all fun and games; it takes a lot of preparation and dedication from everyone involved. Paine himself visits area businesses and ask for donations to raffle off at the event. The coaches have to distribute the raffle tickets to their players, and the players must go out and sell them.
The other half of the Pete ‘N Peters business tandem is co-owner David “Johnny B.” Rutter. The same year the bar made its original $1,000 donation to North Tahoe, Rutter became Paine’s official business partner in 1983. He was already familiar with the operation of the bar, working a stint as a bartender there from 1978 to 1981.
Although he cannot impress with the same athletic resume as Paine, Rutter has dedicated his time and energy to the sports fund-raising cause with equal passion. Rutter, 51, is currently a major player in setting the groundwork for North Tahoe’s first official booster club because Rutter and others realize that more financial assistance is needed.
“Last year we raised over $19,000, but that’s not a lot of money when it comes to how much money they need,” Rutter said, adding, “The football program alone will cost $10-$20,000.
“Parents are having to fund their children in sporting events. It’s costing the average parent $200 or $300 a year, and people up here can’t afford that. Every year the budgets are cut, and the school needs more money.”
Recently, Rutter met with some people to discuss starting a booster club at North Tahoe. A new athletic director position will open up at North Tahoe, he added, and the goal is to tie the booster club into that position. Rutter sees other advantages to starting a booster club, as well.
“The whole idea behind a booster club is not just necessarily for raising money, it’s to facilitate the bond between alumni, business people and the community with the students. To get volunteers for fund-raisers just brings the community a lot closer together.”
With Rutter’s involvement, it’s only fitting that the booster club’s origin would fall very close to a tree that sprouted in a small Tahoe City bar in the winter of 1983.
“For a long time we were the booster club,” Paine laughs.
Bob Habeger, the North Tahoe baseball head coach, knows how important fund-raisers like Pete ‘N Peters street dance are to the athletic program. In fact, his situation represents the epitome of its importance.
Habeger, who played softball with Paine for many years, took over a dead baseball program in 1985. It had been eliminated after severe budget cuts in the early ’80s. For 19 years, in order to keep the program running smooth, Habeger has devoted just as much time to fund raising as coaching, he said.
“The success of the program depends on how well we can fund-raise,” he said. “The school pays for our catcher’s gear and batting helmets Ð protective gear. But hats, pants, belts, jerseys, jackets and baseballs we have to raise money for. It’s nice to have fund-raisers like Pete ‘N Peters because it allows us to play in tournaments and get the competition we need.”
To put it into perspective, Pete ‘N Peters’ fund-raiser has boosted the reputation of the bar and led to prestigious awards like a Business of the Year designation in 1999.
“The main reason we get that award is because of what we give to the high school,” Paine said. “We do a lot of stuff for the community. We’ve done really well with this. It makes us good guys; because there’s always a stigma about bars.”
Part one of this series ran in the B1 section of the April 9 weekend edition of the Sierra Sun. Part three will focus on the heritage and success of the rich softball tradition that surrounds the bar’s history.
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