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Farragut EDC hears PGA support call

The PGA Tour asked Farragut’s Economic Development Committee to help drum up sponsors at a special-called metting, Friday, Feb. 19

PGA Tournament Director Patrick Nichol said the Knoxville Open will be re-branded under the umbrella of an energy theme, specifically targeting the Knoxville-Oak Ridge “energy corridor” in what could be a week-long event.

“If we put the two together, we’ve got a chance to do something truly unique,” Nichol said.

Energy companies Nichol has contacted have said they’re only interested in sponsorship if the tournament is a yearly event.

“Nobody in the energy sector has interest in a one-and-done deal,” Nichol said.

About $800,000 in sponsorships would allow the Knoxville Open to pay off all its operating expenses and make a six-figure charitable donation in 2010, he added.

“Hopefully, we’ll move forward and play in 2010,” Nichol said, but the Open could be postponed to 2011.

“Our goal is to play in 2010.

“At the end of the day, the decision will be made by the community and business leaders,” he added.

David Purvis, EDC member and owner of Farragut Wine and Spirits, said, “I do believe this is a showpiece for us. To lose something like this would be a major loss.”

The PGA is looking for multiple smaller sponsorships rather than one large sponsor, largely because “budgets are already set this late in the ball game,” Nichol said.

“Other than writing a check, the most help you can give is calling people you know,” he added.

When asked by EDC members what the local economic impact of the Open is, Nichol said, “You never can know the number … I do know that when I’m here, I spend $2,000 in a week.”

About 40,000 people attend the event, he added. That number is a mixture of locals and out-of-towners.

“There is a lot of economic impact, but there’s no set number,” EDC chairman Jim Holladay said.

“I’d love to have the money I spent at Mellow Mushroom over the last 10 years,” Nichol, who attends the event yearly from his home in Florida, said.

The EDC drafted a support statement for the Knoxville Open, to be passed to Farragut’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen, who have an approximate $10,000 contribution for the Open budgeted for this year.

The statement reads: “The Economic Development Committee of the town of Farragut fully supports and recognizes the positive economic impact of the Knoxville Open golf tournament, and recommends to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen that they take appropriate steps to ensure this event remains a part of the community.”

According to Nichol, the Knoxville Open has been mismanaged in recent years: the tournament was simply not making enough money to make significant charitable contributions.

But Nichol stressed the tournament does not owe money to any entity.

Nichol thanked Food City for its partnership in recent years.

“Food City was a very great partner … unfortunately, the tournament did not keep its obligation to Food City. … Therefore, they’re going to take a few years off.

“I don’t blame them one bit,” Nichol said.

They “wanted to make an impact on the community and that impact was not made,” he added.

The Knoxville Open has been held in Farragut 14 years.


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