By Nicole Barde

This month’s meeting was at the VC Conference Center .The link to the entire meeting packet can be found HERE and the audio HERE.

During Public Comment at the beginning of the meeting ( take note County Commission) Johyne Saylor from the Comstock Historical Foundation got up to describe some of the projects that have been completed by more than 100 volunteers, many of whom don’t even live on the Comstock. The preservation of the Donovan Mill and Sutro tunnels are but two that have benefitted from the efforts of the Foundation and it’s volunteers. She also mentioned that the lecture series is about to get started up again with Michael Fisher giving a lecture on the history of the Donovan Mill on March 1 at the Gold Hill Hotel. VCTC Board member, Historical Foundation member and CMI CEO Corrado De Gasparis noted that Stephen Saylor has just been named Executive Director of the Foundation.

Cathy Canfield from the Planning Department got up to say that the first draft of the revised sign ordinance will be up by Friday February 9th. She also said that the Planning Department is looking for businesses to volunteer as test cases for the new sign ordinance. The first review of the Sign Ordinance revisions will be at the February 15th Planning Commission meeting.

Commissioner and VCTC Board member Lance Gilman reported that there is an active outreach effort going on to get the TRI companies to get involved with our Storey County organizations and activities. They have invited Tesla, Google, Blockchains LLC, and others to tour Virginia City and are promoting VC to the companies at TRI as well.

Executive Director Deny Dotson reported that the Tourism Tax looks to be on track for the year and is about $19k ahead of last year at this time. The Transient Lodging Tax is also on track for the year and flat to last year. The occupancy rate sits at about 25% on average. I asked what the best case scenario is for occupancy rate and was told that 35% is the limit. Then there was a discussion about the number of new rooms ( revenue) that will come online out at TRI and with Suite 6, Marriott, Hampton Inn and Hilton build out it would provide at least 91 rooms which over 365 days is a lot of revenue for VCTC. Suite 6 is targeted to open on March 1, 2018.

Deny reported that the 2018/2019 fiscal year budgeting is about to begin and that the financial update error at the last meeting was due to an error in adding Pipers Opera House to the budget. He commits to have a clean version of the 2018 budget progress at the next meeting.

Deny also reported that Hot August Nights has been signed up for another three years.

Next up was the RAD Strategies Marketing update. You can see it HERE. The discussion about the Beneath the Surface Video series was interesting. They get a great number of hits on the website and are immensely popular. After speaking with Pascale Baboulin, our resident hat maker and star of one of the videos, I can tell you that the video has been very good for his business.

The RAD presentation included a slight revamp of the Pipers Opera House website. Since Pipers is coming under Deny’s control the VCTC will handle all of the promotion and marketing. This includes “ look and feel” of the venue’s collateral and website. I asked about what the “brand” for Pipers will be, if it has been defined as yet. By that I mean that you have to define what it is, what it stands for, what it represents and all of the associated things that go along with it before you start to put stuff out there. I was told that it hadn’t been defined as yet but it would be in the future. My concern here is that Pipers NOT be marked as just an event venue. Pipers is an important and unique piece of our Comstock history. It is, in MY opinion, the jewel in the crown of V.C. It is our premier cultural icon and a cultural and performing arts venue. If all we do is market it as an event venue it undercuts Pipers full potential and trivializes the impact and uniqueness of the role Pipers has played in our history. But that’s just me …I love the place.

Moving on…

Liquid Blue presented the budget for Chili on the Comstock, which was approved and after commissions is breakeven for VCTC. They are still revising the Way it Was Rodeo budget and have made some changes including the date of the event. This will be reviewed at the next VCTC meeting.

The Rocky Mountain Oyster Fry has about 15 booths and will cook up about 1600 pounds of balls.  That’s a lot of balls….The St. Pattys parade will start early this year at 10am to a closed street.

Katie Demuth , Groups coordinator presented the Groups update and discussed the Rural Roundup tourism meeting in Tonopah.  She also noted that the VC Brewery was purchased by the same folks who own the Mizpah hotel, the brewery and a restaurant in Tonopah.

Katie also reported that the push is on to get donations for this years Fourth of July fireworks. We’ve all received the request in the mail by now. She is also looking for sponsors for the event. Lance Gilman  and the VC Bar and Grill has given $10k to the VCTC to use as they need and The Comstock Chronicle committed 10 percent of the revenues from the sale of their Visitors Guide publications to the fireworks efforts.

The Pipers Opera House agenda item was an update on the hiring for the positions to run Pipers. The intermittent part time maintenance position has been filled and the special events coordinator position has received 20 + applicants and there are 10 interviews set up from those. Deny said that the quality was very good. Pipers will also go back to a regular tour schedule. They will run tours each hour from 10-4 even if there is only one person wanting to attend. In the past I think that there had to be a minimum number of people and if that wasn’t met then the tour would be canceled.

The update took a detour into a discussion about blockchain technology and bitcoin which I won’t try and summarize here. Suffice to say everyone’s talking about Blockchain and bitcoin.

The last agenda item discussed was the purchase of the Cemetery Gin wagon for $10k. This is the beautiful vintage 1852 black hearse with the logo on the side. It was on loan from and offered for sale to the VCTC by Nick Guerra. Deny provided comps of similar vehicles and the $10k is certainly a deal. It was brought up that the vehicle would need new wheels and other maintenance work and so more than the $10k should be budgeted for the purchase.

Lance Gilman expressed reservations about the purchase saying that he was “queasy” about spending more money since we still have inventory of gin left to sell.  Approximately 350 cases of gin have been sold to date ( ~$97k) and there are 350 cases in inventory ( ~$56k). the VCTC gets $17 per bottle in profit when sold thru a distributor, more if sold at the Visitors Center.

I asked what the status was of trying to get the VCTC out of the gin distribution business. Deny said that they were not able to find a willing entrepreneur to take it on. I don’t know how hard they are trying to find a buyer for it.

The purchase of the hearse was approved.

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