The Springfield City Council narrowly approved $30,000 in funding this week to help promote a PGA event in Springfield.
Mayor Jim Langfelder cast the deciding vote after aldermen deadlocked on the proposal.
Lincoln Land Charity Championship requested the money for marketing and promotion of the Web.com Tour event scheduled for June 19-25, 2017, as part of the national PGA tour. This is the second year the city has approved money for the event.
Ward 8 Ald. Kris Theilen said the issue has "spiraled out to where it's about more than Web.com."
"There's been other charities, other events, other businesses that do things that involve tourism that have come forward feeling as though they're being either slighted or overlooked while we're giving for a second year to Web.com," he said, adding that he feels the city should be doing similar things for other events to increase tourism.
Langfelder noted that part of the hotel-motel tax increase passed earlier this year was set aside to promote tourism. Ward 3 Ald. Doris Turner said that money isn't available yet because the first portion of the tax increase goes to Oak Ridge Cemetery.
"Of course we want to do everything we can to promote tourism," she said. "However, we have to be prudent with the dollars that we have."
Bill McCarty, director of the city's office of Budget and Management, said he hasn't received any indication that there's an issue with the tax.
Turner also said people have asked her why other events don't get funding.
"In those types of conversations, whether we want them to or not, always delve down into the location of events, the race and status of the people putting on the event, and it becomes a very divisionary [sic] conversation," she said.
Kate Peters, executive director with Lincoln Land Charity Championship, told the council that the city's support was crucial last year.
"It is so important for you to know that this tournament would not be back this year if it had not had your financial support last year," Peters said. "It is significant to be able to say that we have the City of Springfield behind us as we work with the PGA Tour to solidify the future of this event in years to come."
Peters said the economic impact of PGA events is $4-6 million for the host community. Last year, the event was responsible for 1,800 hotel room nights, she said, adding that an estimated 156 professional players will participate in the event. Peters said that while the event is hosted on the southwest side of Springfield, its charitable focus benefits organizations across the city. She said the event raised $20,000 for charity last year.
"We know there's room to grow," she said, "We need your help. We need the City of Springfield behind us."
Asked what the $30,000 in funding will be used for, Peters said some of it last year went to marketing in St. Louis and operations, although she noted that she could be exact because she wasn't involved last year.
Ward 7 Ald. Joe McMenamin suggested reducing the award from $30,000 to $15,000. Half of the money comes from the city's corporate fund, and McMenamin expressed concern about the budget. The motion failed on a voice vote.
Todd Miller, owner of the Springfield Sliders, questioned the hotel revenue generated by the PGA event and noted that his team gave $30,000 to charity last year.
"When I heard of (the city funding the PGA event), I was less than pleased about knowing that this is even a thing," Miller said.
The vote on the proposal came to 5-5, with Langfelder breaking the tie in favor of the funding.