Sponsorship Still a Problem at Reno-Tahoe Open


RENO, Nev. -- The largest financial backer of the PGA's Reno-Tahoe Open voted to maintain its $250,000 sponsorship this year, but warned the contribution may shrink next year.
The Reno-Sparks Convention & Visitors Authority board of directors had intended to cut its contribution for the Aug. 18-21 tournament from $250,000 last year to $125,000 this year.
But last-minute appeals Thursday night from tournament officials and Reno Mayor Bob Cashell helped keep the support intact.
'We will embarrass the region if we are not able to pull this off this year,' Cashell said during the RSCVA board meeting.
The meeting to approve the authority's fiscal 2005-2006 budget highlighted ongoing concerns about the future of the PGA tournament at Montreux Golf and Country Club.
'I propose a meeting in September to make a decision if we are going to keep the RTO or drop it, but dropping it now, 90 days out, will put a stain on this region for bringing in other events,' Cashell said.
Tourney officials said they need to make up about $500,000 from decreased sponsorships this year, and that the RSCVA's contribution is vital.
'If I can't get your hundred and a quarter and I can't get the other people, we'll have to kill it,' Cashell said.
The 7-year-old tournament still has no title sponsor. The RSCVA contributed $500,000 in 1999 and 2000, but cut its annual sponsorship to $250,000 in 2001.
The Reno Gazette-Journal was among those who pulled back the amount of their sponsorship last year.
Tournament Director Jim Kline said after the meeting he will have to find support to make up for the remaining $375,000 shortfall left by sponsors that have pulled back since last year, including Tessco Technologies, AT&T and Saint Marys Health Network.
'I just don't like the fact that anybody thinks this kills the event or something,' Kline told the Gazette-Journal.
Fred Boyd, chairman of the RTO foundation, said during the meeting that he is aware of the 'ups and downs of RSCVA finances' but urged the authority to maintain the current sponsorship level.
Some RSCVA board members said they were frustrated with the continual requests to fund the event, the economic effect of which is hard to gauge.
'Fred, I really want you to know I love your event, although I wish it were done better,' Chairman Dave Miller said. He said the RSCVA already has given the RTO $2 million, more than any other special event.
'I am not really thrilled about us being held hostage with the threat we are going to kill this tournament,' Miller said. 'You are $500,000 short for this event this year. I still think $125,000 is a really good amount by the way.'
Reno Councilman Dwight Dortch proposed approving $250,000 in funding, but taking Mayor Cashell up on his offer to meet in September to determine future funding, to which the board agreed.
'I don't believe the RTO as it currently stands with the level of players is bringing visitors here,' Reno Hilton President Tim Maland said.
The RTO, shown on cable via The Golf Channel, is the same weekend as the World Golf Championships-NEC invitational in Akron, Ohio, which attracts the top-ranked golfers. The television contract is good through next year, and is being negotiated through 2010, Kline said.
Some echoed Miller's offense at being under the gun to keep the event afloat.
'If I get another e-mail like the one I just got, I will not support this again,' Washoe County Commissioner Bob Larkin said.
He said after the meeting that he was not suggesting the event go away, but that he did not like the tone of the e-mail sent by the RTO to the board members stating that the tournament directors would take a negative view of the region if the RSCVA cut funding.
RSCVA President Jeff Beckelman said the authority should have more money in its budget because it will not lose as much as predicted at the remodeled Reno-Sparks Convention Center this year.
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