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Tahoe in spotlightthis week

Jeff Munson
Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Rick Padilla, Summit Suites butler, shows off one of the suites that will serve as home for an American Century Championship guest at Harrah's Lake Tahoe.
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With at least 25,000 spectators expected at this week’s American Century Celebrity Golf Championship, plans are being developed to find out what the event brings to the South Shore economy.

Between the Tahoe Douglas Visitors Authority and the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, about $800,000 has been spent marketing this year’s tournament, including site fees charged by NBC to broadcast the event.

The $800,000 doesn’t include the hundreds of South Shore volunteers who work at the event nor does it cover the hundreds of thousands of dollars that Harrah’s Lake Tahoe and Harveys Resort Casino kick down for free hotel rooms, meals and private parties for the golfers and their guests.

While the figure may seem like a lot, organizers say it is worth every penny for the national exposure the tournament gets, being featured both on the Golf Channel and on NBC over the weekend.

“To have this kind of airtime on national television is huge,” said Patrick Kaler, LTVA/TDVA executive director. “We have the largest celebrity golf tournament in the United States in terms of celebrity roster and prizes. Who wouldn’t want this kind of exposure for their destination?”

That’s why Kaler and the LTVA will begin to track how dollars and cents are spent during the week, with follow-ups at South Lake Tahoe motels, hotels and restaurants. With the tournament under way, the Stateline hotels are booked and South Lake Tahoe lodging establishments are filling up fast, Kaler said.

Others, like Phil Weidinger whose public relations firm helps to market the event, say the trickle-down effects of the tournament provides a necessary economic shot in the arm for the basin.

“When you think of all the people who come for the tournament, these people are also out in the community, seeing the shows, eating in the restaurants, going to concerts and taking in all of those destinations Tahoe is known for,” Weidinger said.

“We provide visitors the entire package: Scenery, a beautiful lake, the mountains, activities, gaming and nightlife,” he said. “Las Vegas is a different animal. They don’t have what we offer.”

John Packer, chairman of the TDVA, guesses the tournament brings millions into the local economy not only during the tournament but afterward.

“The exposure we get from NBC and the Golf Channel, the ongoing newspaper coverage on celebrity activity is an incredible value and a national postcard for Lake Tahoe,” Packer said. Reservations typically go up after the tournament, as do phone inquiries to the chambers, he said.

Curious to see how a television audience would view the event, Packer, who is the entertainment and communications director at Harrah’s/Harveys Lake Tahoe, opted to stay home one day last year during the weekend golf match to watch it on television.

“I watched with a mind-set of how someone in the Midwest would see this,” Packer said. “What I saw and how they did it was stunning. They put up a big billboard of Tahoe for everyone to see.”

For at least three years, NBC has put a camera on the gondola at Heavenly, showing viewers spectacular panoramas of the lake. Plus, television viewers are treated to tours of the casino coordinator, high stakes gaming rooms, restaurants and nightlife.

Saturday and Sunday coverage of the event bodes well, pulling down as many as six million viewers each day.

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