The Finney County Convention and Visitors Bureau has decided to increase its planned future sponsorship of the Garden City Charity Classic, the local stop of the Symetra Tour women’s professional golf tournament.
At its regular meeting on Wednesday, the CVB Board of Directors agreed to contribute $50,000 to the tournament in 2017 and 2018, after initially deciding in December to decrease funding for the event to only $35,000 in those years. The CVB already had committed to giving $50,000 for this year’s Classic, the same amount it gave the tournament in 2015.
The Ladies Professional Golf Association, the parent organization for the Symetra Tour, has offered the City of Garden City a contract to host the Charity Classic this September, and in 2017 and 2018.
On behalf of the Garden City Charity Classic, Jennifer Cunningham, Garden City assistant city manager, and Cole Wasinger, head golf professional at Buffalo Dunes Golf Course, asked the board on Wednesday to increase its planned contribution to the tournament.
The city is waiting to sign the contract until getting sponsorship commitments from the CVB, Mariah Fund in Dodge City and Amro Samy, owner of the Clarion Inn and Samy’s Spirits and Steakhouse, Wasinger said.
“We have to sign by Jan. 31,” Wasinger said. “We were supposed to have it done by December.”
Mariah Fund plans to contribute $100,000 each year, and Samy has committed $25,000 each year, Wasinger said.
If the CVB hadn’t increased its funding to $50,000 for all three years, then Mariah Fund would have reduced its sponsorship in the second and third years by the same rate, Wasinger told the board.
That would have reduced the Mariah Fund’s sponsorship by $30,000 in 2017 and 2018. The Mariah Fund was the major sponsor of the 2015 event at a level of $100,000.
“If both of those things happen, the city wouldn’t be able to commit to the three-year Symetra Tour,” Cunningham said. “The city wants $175,000 per year in commitment in order for us to sign the three-year lease going forward.”
CVB board member Troy Unruh, whose first board meeting was in December, asked CVB Executive Director Roxanne Morgan why the board previously voted to only contribute $35,000.
“I think some of that is just being fiduciarily responsible,” Morgan said. “I don’t want to see something walk away because of $15,000. So can we do it? Yes.”
“Having another entity, though, say that basically either you do this or not, it feels like you’re being held hostage,” Unruh said. “I know they’re not meaning to do that.”
“I don’t think it’s Mariah Fund saying, ‘CVB has to do this or we’re out.’ I just think they want you to buy in like they’re buying in,” Wasinger said. “They want to be hand in hand, everybody together.”
The last Garden City Charity Classic in September attracted players from more than 20 countries and was the second year that the tour has partnered with the CVB. It raised about $376,000, Wasinger said.
The tournament had an economic impact of $700,000 on Finney County, Morgan said.
The professional purse was $100,000 while monies raised from sponsorships provided the tournament an opportunity to donate approximately $40,000 to Youth Entrepreneurs, a Wichita-based organization that serves 22 western Kansas counties through mentor programs at area high schools.
The mission of the Symetra Tour is to prepare the world’s best young women professional golfers for a successful career on the LPGA Tour. The Symetra Tour is known as “The Road to the LPGA,” and since 1999, it has been designated as the LPGA’s official qualifying tour.
Because the CVB is incentivizing Symetra to come to Garden City and is a relatively new event for the CVB, the money comes out of the CVB’s recruitment fund.
Dates for the 2016 event are Sept. 12 to 18.
In other business Wednesday:
• The board nominated Peter Shimondle, of Comfort Inn, and Holly Ayala, sales director for Marriot TownePlace Suites, to fill an empty seat on the board. The Finney County Commission will pick a new member from the two nominees.
• The board tabled discussion about funding a portion of a new sculpture based on the Garden City logo.
Vivian Fankhauser, chairwoman of Friends of Garden City Arts, asked the board to contribute $10,000 to the art, which would be located somewhere in Stevens Park.
The sculpture would be made of bronze, stand 12 feet tall and five feet wide, and would cost $29,900, Fankhauser said.
“It will be there for generations to come,” she said. “Your great-grandkids will be able to see it.”
FOGCA has raised $17,500 for it so far through a city arts grant and a grant from Mariah Fund, Fankhauser said.