tampabay.com

PODS set to sponsor Tampa Bay golf event

A six-year deal for the PGA tournament in Palm Harbor could be completed today.

By BOB HARIG
Published January 23, 2007


PODS, a Clearwater moving and storage company, is negotiating with the PGA Tour to be the title sponsor of the Tampa Bay Championship, the golf tournament held March 8-11 at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor.

A six-year sponsorship agreement could be completed today.

"We are talking to PODS. We've had some very substantial discussions with them," said Tim Crosby, director of tournament business affairs for the PGA Tour. "We have the right people talking. Obviously the CEO has expressed his personal interest in the event, and it's generally a positive combination when you have someone that has a vested interest in the community."

PODS officials were unavailable for comment, but CEO and founder Peter Warhurst was in Palm Springs, Calif., last week to play in the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic pro-am and to talk with tour officials.

"I think we're close," Warhurst told Golfweek. "To be honest with you, I haven't heard if we have crossed all the T's and dotted all the I's, but I give it a 95 percent chance that we're going to sign up for a six-year sponsorship."

The event would likely be called the PODS Championship.

Tournament director Gerald Goodman would not comment.

Sponsorships are about $7-million per year. The money helps pay for the $5.3-million purse, television advertising and tournament expenses.

But two weeks ago, PGA Tour officials were in Clearwater to make a presentation to the County Commission, where they suggested talks with a local title sponsor would not yield the full sponsorship fee. They asked the commission to commit to $2-million over two years in a secondary sponsorship role that would promote Pinellas County in television spots while helping the tournament "bridge the gap."

"We're scrambling to find a title sponsor," Tom Wade, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for the PGA Tour, told the commission. "If we can get some bridging, if we can get some help. ... we think this tournament can go on here forever."

Commissioner Susan Latvala has since said that it is too late to provide funds for this year's event but that the issue would be addressed during upcoming 2008 budget talks. That means the tournament would still need to find more funding.

"We're obviously not just focused on the 2007 event," Bob Combs, the PGA Tour's senior vice president of communications, said last week. "We're focused on an event that has tremendous long-term potential. We also feel that we need to continue to pursue secondary funding so we can assure this thing is financially successful in the long term."

PODS began 10 years ago and has expanded throughout the United States, Canada and Australia. The company would replace Chrysler, event sponsor the past four years.

Bob Harig can be reached at harig@ sptimes.com or 727 893-8806.