Local experts predict bigger and better things to come
VERNON, N.Y. - When they announced the inaugural Turning Stone Resort Championship, the first regular PGA Tour event held in Indian country, in August 2006, PGA officials cited a potential regional economic impact of between $25 million and $50 million. As the attendance of approximately 35,000 fans was somewhat less than the expected 50,000 - 100,000, did any effect materialize?
Reports in the Syracuse Post-Standard painted the tournament as an economic bust for the surrounding community. But two experts contacted by Indian Country Today (a subsidiary of Four Directions Media, a company owned by the Oneida Indian Nation of New York) were more upbeat.
Ray Durso of the Genesis Group, a Utica-based organization seeking to promote economic development throughout the Mohawk Valley, saw an impact.
''I know that the hotels in Utica and Oneida County were hit positively,'' Durso said.
Durso added that he and 24 other Genesis members served as volunteers during the tournament. He talked with dozens of golfers, caddies and PGA officials over the four-day weekend. Every one of them raved about the Atunyote course, the beautiful weather and the hospitality they received, Durso said.
Syracuse and Onondaga County lie some 30 miles west of Atunyote.
''There was a nominal impact in Onondaga County,'' said David Holder of the Syracuse Convention and Visitors Bureau. ''That's something to build on in future years - do what you can to make it successful and do what you can to make it improve.''
Holder said, by way of defining ''nominal impact,'' that Onondaga County's main beneficiaries were the hotels in the Carrier Circle area northeast of the city due to their proximity to the Thruway and the quick trip to the course. The hotels' guests included spectators, vendors and members of the media, he said.
Going forward, Holder would like to see some targeted marketing to promote central New York's other fine golf amenities.
''We have outstanding golf in the region,'' he said, suggesting that packages to play some of the other top courses in the area be marketed to potential visitors, which he said could happen, and regional golf shows in Rochester, Buffalo and Toronto this winter.
To Holder, the most dramatic impact made by the inaugural Turning Stone Resort Championship may be the most difficult to measure.
''We had some of the most superb weather,'' Holder said. ''The analysts from the Golf Channel [a nationwide cable TV network that covered the event] played up the area, the hospitality and the golf product. The value of that will probably outweigh [in the long run] the event being here. This third-party testimony on our area is invaluable.''
Indeed, the Golf Channel's reach into the homes of avid fans cannot be overestimated. Durso noted that GC's announcers called Atunyote ''the Augusta of the North,'' a reference to the Georgia course that annually hosts The Masters, a tournament featuring the world's top pros.
Durso agreed that a stronger marketing effort would likely attract larger crowds in the future. He noted that a recent national bass fishing tournament on Oneida and Onondaga lakes also drew great attention to central New York's natural resources and tourist potential.
''The tournament will have a positive impact on our overall quality of life,'' Durso said. ''This is something to build on - economic development, quality of life, tourism. It's the beginning of something great in the Mohawk Valley.''