Downtown room tax revenue is not what it used to be. Room surcharges – $2 per room, per night – have been reduced by the closure of Harrah’s, as well as a reduction in visitation to downtown.
That means the city of Reno is not getting the revenue from downtown properties it used to receive.
Harrah’s, prior to closing, had 928 rooms, rooms that are no longer generating the same surcharges from visitors. Other hotels undergoing renovations have also contributed to reduced revenue.
That prompted Reno City Manager Doug Thornley in July to ask the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority’s board for more money. He wants to use it for improvements to the downtown bowling stadium. That includes a new scoreboard.
“I do need to implore you to perhaps take a look at helping out a little bit at the bowling stadium,” he said to the board.
The pandemic and declining tourism were to blame, he said.
“The $2 surcharge account that traditionally maintains the bowling stadium and provides for the [capital expenditures] that we put into that facility, with Covid and the decrease in tourism … that you’re all aware of, it hasn’t really kept up as much as we’d like with the room tax…” Thornley added.
RSCVA’s Ben McDonald confirmed room nights are down overall in downtown Reno and the “bed base” has been reduced with the loss of Harrah’s. But county-wide tourism revenue is up.
The last full non-COVID year before Harrah’s shutdown was the fiscal year of 2018-2019, McDonald said. “During that year, the downtown district had 2,125,292 available room nights, and 794,122 cash room nights. That just includes the hotels with unrestricted gaming licenses, which are the downtown properties included in the $2 surcharge.”
During the last fiscal year – 2021-22 – there were fewer than 1.7 million available room nights and about 600,000 cash room nights.
“In the downtown area, room tax collections were down 2.3% compared to fiscal year 2018-2019,” McDonald added. “Overall throughout the county, however, room tax collections were up 9.2%.”
Thornley requested “a little bit of help” because of needed improvements to the bowling stadium.
“We do need to make some capital investments in that facility, and we need to make those capital investments now,” he said. “We need to do it before March of ‘23.”
The RSCVA board agreed to split the cost for a new scoreboard with the city. Other stadium improvements are expected to be discussed at future meetings.
Business news briefs
Renewable diesel plant opens. A new Rise Renewables Reno facility will turn non-edible plant oil into renewable diesel that burns cleanly. It is one of only a handful of advanced renewable fuel plants built in the U.S. and will be opening at the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center in Storey County.
Ken Coll takes helm at WestEd, an educational nonprofit. The UNR professor and former dean is first Nevadan to serve as chair in 25 years. Coll has served on WestEd’s Board of Directors since 2013. “With his depth of expertise in student development and his deep commitment to teacher education, Ken Coll brings invaluable experience and vision to the Board and the agency’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion,” WestEd CEO Glen Harvey said.
NVO Construction announced it has hired industry veteran Aaron West to serve as first chief strategy officer. West joins NVO after serving as CEO of the Nevada Builders Alliance for nearly a decade; he will join the fast-growing start-up company to help expand their business footprint in Nevada, California and beyond.
UNR Center for Economic Development names new director. Frederick Steinmann is the new director, effective July 1, taking over from Thomas Harris, who held the position for 30 years since the center’s inception. Harris will continue to serve the center as part-time faculty alongside Steinmann and new center faculty member Richard Bartholet, the director of the Sontag Entrepreneurship Competition. The center has also received a five-year grant worth $1.65 million. “With this support, the center will be able to make these resources more attainable for Nevadans,” Steinmann said. “We especially want to help Nevada’s Indigenous communities and support entrepreneurs.”
The City of Reno hires Travis Truhill as the new director of maintenance and operations. Truhill is a 35-year Nevada resident with a degree in business management and a masters in business administration. “We received applications and interviewed candidates from all over the country, even Canada, but I’m happy to say we found the best candidate right here in our own organization,” City Manager Doug Thornley said. Truhill has been with the city since 2005
Tahoe Forest Products announces new sawmill. Tahoe Forest Products in a partnership with Washoe Development Corporation, an affiliate of Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California, recently announced the lease of 40 acres of Washoe-owned land near Carson City to build the first sawmill in the region in decades. By creating a local market for green and burned logs, the mill will help to reduce fire fuels to help slow and prevent future fires. “This project came about because there was no reasonable market for salvage logs and thinnings from the Tahoe Basin or from the Humboldt Toiyabe National Forest,” said Jon Shinn, CEO of TFP. “A local sawmill is one of the critical missing links in beginning to address forest health and resilience, not to mention critical post-fire cleanup efforts from catastrophes like the Caldor Fire.”
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011. In addition to managing This Is Reno, he holds a part-time appointment for the Mineral County University of Nevada Extension office.