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Reno-Tahoe Open Looking for Sponsors

RENO, Nev. -- One of the founding sponsors of the Reno-Tahoe Open is reducing its contribution this year, forcing the PGA Tour event to further tighten its belt, tournament director Jim Kline said.
The Reno Gazette-Journal has reduced its contribution offer this year, and some other foundation sponsors, mainly casino properties, have indicated they might follow suit, the newspaper reported Wednesday.
The combination of potential reduced sponsorship contributions and increased costs this year could be devastating to a tournament that made a $302,000 profit last year and averages slightly more than $200,000 profit annually.
Increased costs alone this year are approaching $500,000.
Gazette-Journal Publisher Fred Hamilton said the newspaper's decision was driven by economics.
'We've been a supporter of the RTO from the very beginning, and we will continue to support it,'' Hamilton said. 'We just can't continue at the level we've been at.''
Despite financial uncertainty, Kline remained hopeful.
'The tournament's not going to change because a few have to downgrade their sponsorship,'' he said.
'But other companies within the community have to step it up,'' he said. 'We can't keep depending on downtown to save the day. It's up to others to keep it going, and I think they will.''
Now in its sixth year, the RTO -- scheduled Aug. 19-22 at Montreux Gold & Country Club -- is signed on with the tour through 2006. Directors, however, could terminate it early without repercussions.
Gary Carano, general manager of the Silver Legacy, and Steve Trounday, vice president of marketing at the Reno Hilton, both said a reduced sponsorship role is a real possibility.
'It's a great event, and they do a great job producing the event, but were definitely looking at scaling back,'' Carano told the newspaper.
The RTO is held the same weekend as the World Golf Championships-NEC Invitational in Akron, Ohio. The WGC-NEC siphons about the top 70 players in the world, leaving the RTO with a field of lesser-known players.
Subsequently, casino managers believe, few golf fans from Northern California and other western regions make the trip to Reno to attend the RTO.
Since its inception, tournament directors have been searching for a title sponsor to put up $5 million to $6 million annually.
Some say that would help the event become financially stable and land its own date on the calendar, allowing it to draw top names such as Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
Others say the RTO would have a better chance of attracting a title sponsor if it had its own date first.
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