Don’t bogey five-tourney PGA deal 

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors would be regrettably short-sighted to vote against the proposed Professional Golfers Association deal for five major tournaments at the Harding Park public golf course.

The apparent objection is a $150,000-per-tournament reimbursement shortfall for out-of-pocket city expenses, such as loss of golf revenues, while the course is closed for regular play, extra city services and overtime, plus repair of turf trampled by tournament crowds.

True enough, presenting a large-scale PGA tournament at Harding Park would probably consume $150,000 from city coffers. At least that was the Recreation and Park Department’s cost overrun for the successful PGA debut at the southwest Sunset district course in October 2005, a World Golf Championship event won by the inimitable Tiger Woods.

But what about the numerous economic benefits to San Francisco for hosting a major international athletic event? There would be an influx of additional visitors spending money at hotels and restaurants that contribute to city sales taxes, plus free worldwide television exposure resonating with potential tourists for years.

Not to mention that the amended PGA contract is offering San Francisco $500,000 per event, plus another $500,000 contribution to the nonprofit First Tee Program that provides underprivileged San Francisco youth with golf-playing opportunities.

A PGA economic-impact forecast projects that five yearly championship tournaments at Harding Park between 2009 and 2014 would each generate at least $30 million in taxable business and labor income, while also producing as much as $7 million worth of media coverage apiece. Surely even a fraction of such gains would compensate San Francisco for much more than a relatively piddling $150,000 expense.

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, whose district includes Harding Park, helped negotiate the contract that the board is to vote on tomorrow. Some other supervisors are expressing strong opposition, placing the entire five-tournament agreement, and funding for the First Tee Program, at risk.

Much of the opposition is apparently based on lingering resentments over the controversial 2002 deal that spent $23 million renovating Harding Park, and did not fulfill promises that the plan would create more revenues for San Francisco’s five other public golf courses and neighborhood parks.

But the need to generate more funding at a time when San Francisco consistently faces budget shortages is precisely why San Francisco needs to invest a small amount in order to gain the substantial economic benefits flowing from world-class events.

The impulse by opponents to proceed cautiously and ensure that San Francisco does not enter into a damaging deal is admirable. But this is one case where the economic benefits for San Francisco outweigh the risks by the length of a Tiger Woods drive. The Board of Supervisors should approve this prudent and beneficial contract, provide funds for a worthwhile childrens’ program and bring world-class golf to San Francisco.

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Staff Report

Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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