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Village Vision News

Bringing Symetra Tour back falls by one vote

Thursday, July 25, 2019

At the July 1 meeting, trustees got a second chance to fund the Symetra Tour stop at Hickory Point Golf Course. This turn of events, something of a surprise, came about when an event planner from Springfield (with Decatur roots) got involved. The discussion even inspired a former trustee, Steve Hubbard, to return to Village Hall to speak in support of bringing the tournament back.

Stephanie Endsley of Having a Ball Productions presented a new strategy for keeping the tournament viable. In this new iteration, one which Endsley said the Symetra Tour supported, the Village would remain the title sponsor with $100,000 of hotel/motel tax money committed to the total purse of $200,000. The difference, Endsley said, was that she had lined up commitments from corporate sponsors from around the region — not just in Decatur and Macon County — that would help grow the tournament beyond a local event and could potentially involve people and businesses from places like Springfield and Bloomington-Normal. Endsley said she was confident that she could come up with $400,000 for an operating budget.

“This would be an inaugural event in the same footprint as the beautiful 35-year event,” she said.

The advantage to the Village, according to Endsley, along with exposure brought by the tournament and being its main sponsor, would be the relationships made by expanding sponsorships to nearby communities. A potential “relationship bridge” could form that might benefit the Village in future projects.

“We want something sparkly and new,” she said. “It makes it special to go to these national brands that want to be a part of something that big.”

However, because this would technically be a new event (including having a new name), Village Attorney Jeff Jurgens’ legal interpretation was that this would be “outside of the norm of what’s been done in the past … different event, different purpose, different people.”

As a new event, he advised it would need five Yea votes to pass.

After much discussion, it was fairly apparent how the votes were going to come down. Sensing that five votes in favor of a $100,000 commitment for each of the next two years — the time frame requested by the tour — was going to be a challenge, Trustee Jim Peck made a motion for $50,000 plus $1 (the amount being significant so that the Village would be the largest sponsor) for two years.

Trustees Bob Gruenewald and Jeremy Shaw, along with Mayor Marilyn Johnson, held to their previous positions that they did not agree with committing that much money to the event.

“I have to think with my head and not my heart,” Gruenewald said. “I know it doesn’t bring the dollars and cents back to the community. It’s hard to quantify quality of life.”

Shaw said money was the deciding factor for him.

“I struggle with the dollar amount,” he said. “Is it really going to bring people in when a 35-year tournament couldn’t?”

Gruenewald, who has made clear his priorities for hotel/motel tax funds are on the proposed community center and sports complex projects, added those revenues are not free money.

Trustee David Wendt disagreed, calling it “a rock-solid, defensible use of the hotel/motel tax as the law is written. It’s what we’re supposed to spend it on, to get people here.”

In the end, the vote fell short of the five votes needed, with four Yea votes coming from Peck, Wendt and Trustees Kerry Denison and Jeff London.

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