PGA Tour OKs local, state and private funding plan for tournament, April 5, 2011:
Hilton Head town manager: County's Heritage vote pointless if 'numbers don't add up,' March 29, 2011:
County debates giving another $1 million to Heritage tournament, March 28, 2011:
Local officials support Heritage funding proposal, despite long odds, March 22, 2011:
Haley tells Hilton Head crowd that Heritage is a priority, but don't count on state funding, March 22, 2011:
County councilman proposes $30M plan to save Heritage, March 21, 2011:
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A plan to use a mix of state, local and private money to save Hilton Head Island's Heritage golf tournament got a boost last week when it was revealed the PGA Tour would consider the idea if a title sponsor can't be found.
A big piece of the proposal, however, remains in question. The state, which would be responsible for committing or raising $18 million toward the $30 million plan, has given no indication it would participate.
The rest of the plan, proposed last month by Beaufort County Councilman Stu Rodman after a meeting with Heritage organizers and other government officials, calls on the Town of Hilton Head Island, Beaufort County and tournament host Sea Pines Resort to come up with the remaining $12 million.
Proponents hope that will be enough to persuade the tour to keep the event on Hilton Head for as much as five years and give the tournament more time to secure a replacement for its previous title sponsor, Verizon.
With less than two weeks until the 2011 Heritage, scheduled for April 18-24, here's where each party stands:
Gov. Nikki Haley has told two members of her cabinet to help find a private sponsor but has repeatedly opposed the notion of using taxpayers' money.
The plan's proponents have suggested two ways the state could account for its $18 million share without new taxes:
The plan's proponents argue those methods could pass muster with Haley because they wouldn't require new taxes, but Haley has not directly responded.
When asked this week about the Commerce Department method, governor's spokesman Rob Godfrey repeated his response to previous questions about the plan: "The governor loves the Heritage, understands how critical it is to our economy and is very focused on finding a sponsor. But let's be clear -- under no circumstances should the taxpayers of South Carolina front the costs of a golf tournament."
Commerce Department spokeswoman Kara Borie referred all questions to the governor's office.
PRT department spokeswoman Dawn Dawson-House said that agency would follow the governor's lead.
"If SCPRT does anything, explores options or comes up with creative approaches, it will be at the will and direction of the governor," Dawson-House said in an email. "And she has directed us to find a sponsor."
S.C. Rep. Bill Herbkersman, R-Bluffton, said he plans to meet this week with Heritage officials, key legislators and Haley's administration to try to craft a solution.
"We should have some heavy hitters in there and just see if we can't figure it out, put it into a bill form and see if we can't get some traction on the floor," he said.
He said he did not know what specifics such a bill would include, but it could involve accommodations taxes, which are levied on overnight lodging.
Herbkersman in March introduced the shell of a "Heritage Golf Preservation Act." It includes no details about how the state might support the tournament, but could be amended if needed, he has said.
Officials with the Heritage Classic Foundation, which runs the tournament, told Hilton Head Town Council last week the tour has approved the plan.
Ty Votaw, a tour vice president, said Friday the tour would be willing to consider it as long as new taxes aren't involved.
"If this is just a reallocation of existing budget revenue, that would be fine," Votaw said. "But we need to make it clear we view this as a backup plan."
The tour clearly prefers, he said, to find a single title sponsor and is "in active discussions" with a number of candidates.
Some tour events, including those in Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Las Vegas, receive some public money from agencies such as convention and visitors bureaus, Votaw said.
None, however, gets most of its support from public funds, he said.
County Council, which has already committed $1 million to help put on this year's tournament without a title sponsor, voted 6-5 last month to approve the first reading of a plan to give the Heritage another $1 million.
The council's Finance Committee is scheduled to consider discussing support of the Heritage at 2:30 p.m. Monday, and the full council is scheduled to consider a second reading for the additional $1 million at 4 p.m. in the county administration building, 100 Ribaut Road, Beaufort.
HILTON HEAD ISLAND
The town, which also has committed $1 million to this year's tournament, has not acted to commit the additional $6 million called for in the plan.
Mayor Drew Laughlin has said he doesn't want council to formally discuss the matter "without some indication from other players that whatever we do will make a difference."
If all the other parties are involved, however, Laughlin has said, he would urge council to make "a substantial commitment" to protect the tournament.
"Until it looks like that's the case, I don't see the point in it," Laughlin said last week.
SEA PINES RESORT
Sea Pines officials have not commented, but Rodman, the County Council member, has said the resort could reach the $3 million called for in the plan by waiving about $600,000 it charges the tournament each year to use Harbour Town Golf Links.