Home » News » Oneida Nation to stop sponsoring LPGA event

Oneida Nation to stop sponsoring LPGA event

By Ben Rodgers

HOBART – After three years of golf tournaments at Thornberry Creek at Oneida, located in Hobart, the tribe has agreed to cease sponsorship of the LPGA event.

“Although this has been a great event to showcase all Oneida has to offer and was a great opportunity for generating tourism dollars in our area, the return on the investment did not allow for us to achieve the business goals of the Oneida Nation,” said Chairman Tehassi Hill in a statement provided to The Press Times. “The improvements to the course and clubhouse will still have far-reaching positive impacts to highlight our championship golf course. As a ‘Proud Partner of the Green Bay Packers’ and home of the past LPGA events, our course has reached a high profile in the region and is known for the excellence of play and customer service. We would like to see this event remain at Thornberry Creek at Oneida, and welcome another major sponsor (to) take over the title sponsorship.”

A document obtained by The Press Times shows a loan from the General Tribal Council (GTC) to Oneida Golf Enterprise (OGE) for the first three years of the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic was in default 30 days after the first sponsorship was received in 2017.

“The $8.65 million loan for the 2017-2019 tournament was set up to begin repayment through the revenue generated from the sponsorship contracts,” an April 23, 2019, document to Oneida Nation citizens said. “These sponsorship funds would reduce the need for reliance on the loan. However, by failing to meet the goal for the 2017 tournament, no interest payments have ever been made. OGE was in default on the loan thirty days after the first sponsorship was received. The Finance Department, Law Office and OBC [Oneida Business Committee] continued to monitor the loan and it appeared very early on, and confirmed by the 2018 tournament close-out report, that the likelihood of repayment on the loan was very low.”

Obtaining sponsorships proved difficult because of federal regulations, which did not allow the Oneida Nation to release the names of its vendors, the document said.

“This resulted in OGE being unable to use Oneida Nation representatives to contact vendors resulting in much more difficult ‘cold calling’ options,” the document said.

The first year of the tournament infused $7.2 million into the Oneida and surrounding communities, created an estimated $13 million in media value and created more than $40,000 in charitable fundraising, however it was reported as a financial loss.

“In summary, the 2017 Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic was an expected one-year financial loss,” the document read. “Unfortunately, it was a greater loss than was anticipated which was likely to affect the three-year projections regarding the business proposal.”

The document also stated 62,000 people attended the first year of the tournament, but many came from within Wisconsin, thus not staying overnight or gaming in the casino.

“Our expectations that ticket sales would lead to greater room stays was not realized since 91 percent of the advance ticket sales came from within Wisconsin,” the document read. “In addition, our ticket sales goal of $100,000 was not met, with only $94,000 in ticket sales.”

In January 2018, the OBC requested a review of the LPGA and IMG (International Management Group, the tournament management company) contracts, where it was determined that if the tournament was not held, OGE would still be responsible for $5 million in contract costs.

In February 2018, the OBC/GTC increased its loan to OGE by $2.2 million to provide additional financial assistance.

“In 2015, the GTC adopted a resolution which provided a loan of $8.65 million to OGE,” the document read. “There were two key presumptions in not authorizing a loan for the full cost of the three-year tournaments – the vendor list of the Oneida Nation would be available with representatives assisting in making contact and out of town visitors would be predominant. Neither of these presumptions turned out to be true.”

At a March 2018 GTC meeting, it was identified that OGE failed to meet sponsorship goals because of the inability to utilize contacts with the Oneida Nation vendors.

The same held true in the 2018 tournament close-out report when sponsorship sales only netted $772,000, which fell short of the expected $1 million.

Even with similar media exposure to the 2017 tournament, a similar economic impact to 2017 and in-kind sponsors, the 2018 Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic was reported as a financial loss.

“If it appears that there is no turning point, the OBC has committed to review whether OGE should be dissolved and the golf course transferred to Oneida Casino or the Oneida Airport Hotel Corporation as an amenity or simply closed,” the document read.

Results from this year’s Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic were not available at press deadline.

On July 23-24 of this year, the OBC voted to accept the recommendation provided by OGE for the Oneida Nation to end title sponsorship funding for the LPGA event.

The village of Hobart released the following statement in regards to the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic:

“This is unfortunate news regarding the LPGA event. The village has always been supportive of the event, whether it was our public safety departments working together for the safety of the fans and golfers to our promoting of the event through our social media platforms. We have always believed this event was a great way to show off the beauty and amenities of Hobart, as well as the greater Green Bay area. We stand willing and ready to do what we can as a village to assist the Oneida Tribe if they decide in the future to relaunch the event.”

Facebook Comments
Scroll to Top