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Golf tournament fits Tahoe to a tee

Since Isuzu pulled its sponsorship of the Celebrity Golf Tournament in 1998, there has been much scrambling to find another deep pocket. But so far, no luck.

Now proponents like Caesars Tahoe General Manager Mel Thomas want the Tahoe-Douglas Visitors Authority and other local public and private entities to pick up the tab to keep the event viable.

If the July 4th competition doesn’t come up with a sponsor or find local funding for the $2.5 million costs, Lake Tahoe could lose what Harveys General Manager Kevin Servatius described as one of only two South Shore “home run events.”



However, the immediate problem is that both “home run events” Servatius mentioned happen on the same weekend. The other event, Lake Tahoe’s Fourth of July celebration, draw crowds in its own right. Having both events on the same weekend has been more of a hindrance than a help.

Were that to be the case permanently, then the lose of the Celebrity Golf Tournament would be far less measurable. In fact, it would probably have very little immediate impact on the local economy.




The real impact is in perceived value. Just how many sports fans sit in front of the television set on the Fourth of July to take in the tournament and the surroundings in which it takes place is hard to measure. NBC must believe the viewing audience is significant enough to keep it as a regularly scheduled event.

While the timing of the golf tournament is totally up to NBC, the network has promised that after this year, the golf tournament will take place on weekends other than Fourth of July, at least for several years.

That promise is probably the biggest single reason for the local public and private sectors to pick up the Celebrity Golf Tournament bill.

The amount of money needed is huge to those small businesses and local agencies struggling to make ends meet.

But it is well within range of the casino core and the ski industry. If the costs are shared jointly by the TDVA, the casino core and the three South Shore ski resorts, the amount paid by each is well within the petty cash department.

But why should the big guys once again pick up the tab, particularly when so much of their money is tied up in redevelopment or individual property development?

If we are to keep the allure or glamour of Lake Tahoe from completely evaporating, we must still have the events that attract celebrities and the corresponding television coverage that celebrity status brings. While the entire town gains when the beauty and glamour of Lake Tahoe are splashed on network television, none gain more than the big boys. It’s the casinos and the ski resorts that gain long term from such exposure.

This is a critical time at the South Shore. While redevelopment has been pushed back slightly, it is still very much alive and well, and it will change the face of our community.

But the next couple of years, when the roads are jammed with traffic and the bulldozers are tearing up this town, it becomes very important to have the advertising vehicle that reaches beyond our primary markets to the nation and the world.

All that construction could lose us tourists from Northern California, but with the kind of positive spin a Celebrity Golf Tournament can bring, some of the slide in market share regionally can be gained nationally.

The Celebrity Golf Tournament offers the South Shore a way of showcasing itself in a way not often available to a resort area. Let’s not let this one get away.

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