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Celebrity kiss-off? Not without a fight

Determined to ensure the Celebrity Golf Championship remains a South Shore event, an alliance between sometimes uneasy partners is taking shape.

Stateline’s major casinos, which are often fiercely competitive, could pool resources to hold onto the event until a new name-sponsor can be found, according to some tourism officials.

“Keeping celebrity golf in the community is absolutely essential,” said Kevin Servatius, senior vice president and general manager of Harveys Resort Hotel/Casino and a board of director for both the Tahoe-Douglas Visitors Authority and the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority.



“At Harveys, we’re willing to make a financial commitment to keep it in the community,” he said at last week’s LTVA meeting. He added that other casinos and tourism organizations need to “weigh in.”

“We cannot dawdle here. We must get to work,” Servatius said.




Isuzu, which sponsored the event for seven years, announced it would move on to other ventures following the July 1998 championship.

Since then, NBC, Sports Marketing Television International, and local organizations have been searching for a new sponsor willing to pay around $2.5 million to place its name on the event.

According to Douglas County Commissioner Don Miner, who also sits on both the LTVA and TDVA boards, the Lake Tahoe Gaming Alliance is asking Harveys, Caesars Tahoe and Harrah’s Lake Tahoe to each sponsor the event with $500,000. The remaining $1 million could then be attained by the LTVA and the TDVA and other organizations, he said.

Without the casinos contributions, sponsoring the event would take the entire general fund budgets of the two visitors authorities, leaving virtually nothing for other events.

“If we own the tournament; if we get the sponsors, it stays put,” Miner said.

“It’s the only special event that we have in Tahoe that reaches upward of 400 million people worldwide. It showcases the lake. It has the support of the celebrities and the community and can be built into a bigger and better event to showcase the attributes of Lake Tahoe.”

That exposure is the chief benefit to residents at South Shore, where as much as 85 to 90 percent of the businesses are dependent on tourism, said Phil Weidinger, whose public relations firm does much of the legwork to organize and promote the event.

“It impacts this area’s economy in a major way and helps promote what Tahoe has to offer on a national and international scale,” Weidinger said.

“Besides it’s fun.”

Fun and profitable.

Many other communities, with larger bankrolls, would love to enjoy the fun and profit of the golf championship.

“Once it’s known that Tahoe stands to lose it, everyone will start bidding for it,” said Terry LeBan, director of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority. “It’s going to take a commitment on the part of the neighborhood.”

It takes more than talk to put together $2 million worth of money and commitment. Steve Teshara, executive director of the both the TDVA and the Lake Tahoe Gaming Alliance, is helping to put together a plan. It will be presented for discussion at the Feb. 10 TDVA meeting. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. at Lakeside Inn & Casino.

“Our No.1 goal is to attract a new title sponsor,” Teshara said. “It’s problematic to think about the community coming forward and putting up program money. That would be draining to other programs.”

Teshara sees the TDVA, LTVA, both chambers of commerce, Douglas County and the city of South Lake Tahoe all working together to attract a new sponsor.

“I would like to think there is some company out there that this event does match their profile (of events to sponsor),” he said.

Whatever it takes, the event needs to be secured, Servatius said.

“I want to make sure all rocks have been turned over. We have to make the commitment to a good faith effort to keep it in 2000. Then to find the company to sponsor it from 2001 on out,” Servatius said.

“This event should be ours. … We need major players in the community to come up with the major dollars.”

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