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Viking Classic sponsorship talks on hold until tournament’s end

June 22nd, 2011 No comments

There’s very little that we know for sure about the negotiations to either keep Viking Range Corp. as the title sponsor of the Viking Classic, or to find a new one.

What is certain is that Randy Watkins, tournament director, and his team will not resume talks with anybody until after the tournament is over. The Viking tees off July 11 with the pre-tourney events; the first round starts July 14.

Watkins told Magnolia Marketplace Wednesday morning that the PGA Tour has given him a soft deadline of late August to reach a deal with a title sponsor. How rigid that deadline is unclear, even to Watkins.

“I don’t know because I’ve never pushed it,” he said. “I know we’re aiming at it.”

The Tour will release its full 2012 schedule in November, so it would seem having the title sponsor on board by then would be imperative.

As for who that company is, Watkins offered precious few hints. To go with Viking, the companies Watkins has had negotiations with are household names, he said, and at least some are based in Mississippi. “All I can say is we’re working with (Viking) and others who have expressed interest. I don’t know if it’s unlikely (that Viking will not re-up), but there’s just nothing to be said one way or the other right now.”

This is Viking’s fifth year as the title sponsor. Southern Farm Bureau flew its flag before that; and prior to that, the old Deposit Guaranty bank had its name on the door. Watkins said the total cost — including cash and personnel costs — associated with the title sponsorship is “close to a $1 million.”

The Viking tees off a full two months earlier than it has in recent years. That’s good, Watkins said, because it guarantees all four rounds will be broadcast live by the Golf Channel, and it assures the tournament will be a part of the FedEx Cup.

But the earlier date also constricts by about 100 days the negotiating window Watkins had with potential sponsors. “It would have been nice to have that extra time, but the TV exposure and the FedEx Cup make up for that,” he said.

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Viking Classic economic impact numbers have arrived

January 27th, 2011 No comments

Thursday morning, Magnolia Marketplace got some numbers we’ve been waiting on for several weeks.

A study commissioned by the Mississippi Development Authority and conducted by Mississippi State’s College of Business and its Extension Service took a look at the economic impact of the PGA Tour’s Viking Classic, played every year at Annandale Golf Club in Madison.

Surveyors asked 2,500 attendees at last fall’s Viking how much money they spent on things like food, gas, hotel rooms, how much money they spent at the course on memorabilia, etc.

Here’s what they found:

The total economic impact of the tournament is $22 million. That includes a value added total of $12.5 million, which reflects things like return in rents, wages, interest and profits, according to a press release from MSU. That economic activity created 362 jobs, including 280 direct jobs and 77 indirect jobs.

“It’s a significant amount,” said Dr. Becky Smith, an economist for the College of Business who coordinated the project with Garen Evans and Al Myles, MSU Extension economists in the agricultural economics department.

The total estimated impact on labor income came in at $7.2 million, including $4.9 million worth of income directly attributable to the event, and an another $2.3 million from indirect and induced impacts. Estimated sales taxes collected from Viking-related spending was $1.5 million.

Before this latest study, the last economic impact analysis of the Viking Classic came in the mid-1990s and pegged it at $20 million. It’s no surprise at all that the new numbers came in over that.

These figures will be a part of the sales pitch for tournament organizers when it comes time to sit down with Viking Range to start renewal negotiations. Viking’s title sponsorship contract expires after this year’s tournament, which will be played in July instead of September.

The MDA paid MSU $30,000 to conduct the study. Surveys were taken by undergraduate students at MSU’s College of Business and were gathered during the three-day run-up to the tournament and during the four days of play.

The Viking has had a good couple weeks (updated)

September 3rd, 2010 No comments

Opinions and observations to kick off the long weekend …

Randy Watkins, Viking Classic boss, fine Ole Miss man and one of Magnolia Marketplace’s favorite people, had a double-shot of good news recently.

First, the PGA Tour announced in late August that it was renewing The Viking Classic for an additional year, guaranteeing the tournament would be played at Annandale in Madison at least through 2011. We did a story earlier in the summer about the contract between the Tour and the Viking expiring after this year, and most everybody we talked to was optimistic that the relationship between the two would continue. So while it’s  not much of a surprise, it still has to be a relief for Watkins and other Viking organizers.

Then, earlier this week, Viking Range announced that Emeril Lagasse would do two cooking demonstrations at the tournament. The Viking has had some fairly famous celebrity chefs at past tournaments, but none with the name recognition and drawing power of Emeril. You can purchase tickets for the tournament and/or Emeril’s cooking demos at vikingclassic.com. If you plan to be in town the last weekend of September, you should do just that.

The Mississippi Department of Employment Security announced late yesterday afternoon that it had received its 10,000th application related to the Toyota plant in Blue Springs. The agency says 8,700 of those 10,000 are from Mississippians. The rest come from 36 states across the U.S. MDES is helping Toyota fill 1,350 of the 2,000 jobs at the facility, so some HR person has a pile of paper work on their desk, and it’s only getting bigger. Let’s hope they move faster — and exercise a little more common sense — than the NCAA did and does.

Enjoy your Labor Day, and be safe.

URGENT UPDATE: Remember what we said about the NCAA in the above paragraph? Disregard. Jeremiah Masoli can play football for Ole Miss this year. The NCAA is a fair-minded, sense-driven organization.

This year’s Viking most important ever?

July 6th, 2010 No comments

Though it doesn’t tee off for nearly another three months, the 2010 Viking Classic has already shaped up to be a critical event for its organizers, its sponsors and the Metro Jackson area as a whole.

If you haven’t already seen our story about it in this week’s MBJ, check it out.

What makes this year’s Viking probably more important than any other is that the contract that names Greenwood-based Viking Range as the title sponsor expires when the tournament ends Oct. 3. This is also the last year of the agreement between the PGA Tour and Annandale Golf Club for the course to host the tournament. All the involved parties are in negotiations to extend both deals.

Nobody we talked to, on either side, was comfortable putting a timetable on when a decision would be made. But it was clear that, at least from the perspective of the local folks, the Viking means an awful lot, and not just economically, even though the tournament pumps an estimated $20 million into the area.

Randy Watkins, golf course magnate and executive director of the Viking, talked for a long time about how much pride he and his team, and the folks from Annandale, take in putting on a good show for the players and spectators. That makes what happened last year — when the tournament was canceled all together by heavy rains — especially difficult for them to swallow. It also makes them more determined than ever to put their best foot forward this year.

A lot rides on this year’s Viking, maybe the future of the tournament itself.

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