Unable to put together modest funding package, state loses potentially millions
By SEAN O'LEARY, Hartford Business Journal
January 28, 2008
Unable to put together a funding package of roughly $75,000 over several months, the state lost a premier bass fishing tournament that offered a potential $2.5 million economic boost to the Hartford region.
FLW Outdoors recently announced that its prestigious $1 million Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League All-American Tournament will head to Hot Springs, Ark. — not Hartford as had been planned — in May.
Tourism organizations are saying that the loss may provide an impetus to develop a revolving fund that will be made available to secure major events in the state, and then be repaid once revenues are generated from the event.
FLW Outdoors had identified Hartford and the Connecticut Convention Center as its first choice to host the tournament, based on a successful event it hosted in the city in 2006.
However, conflicts arose as local organizations could not raise a site deposit to secure the bass fishing contest.
Riverfront Recapture president and CEO Joseph Marfuggi is quick to point out that there was never a formal agreement or a contract signed. The delay in finalizing the agreement essentially boiled down to money. Marfuggi said that the local groups likely could have scrounged together the funding, but they could not have done so quickly enough.
In order to stage a sporting event, especially one the magnitude of the All-American Tournament, a host city has to put up a site fee. For the 2006 tournament, Marfuggi said FLW Outdoors required a fee of $75,000 and the price this year was similar.
“We had a great relationship with them two years ago and we had been in serious discussions about them coming back,” he said. “The timing was off. We hadn’t put our funding package together and it came to a point where they needed a commitment. We just couldn’t do it this year.”
In addition to Riverfront Recapture, the city of Hartford, the Greater Hartford Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Capitol City Economic Development authority were involved in trying to bring the fishing tournament back.
At some point during the past few weeks, FLW Outdoors came to local officials in need of a commitment so it could began the months-long promotion and advertising of the event, one of the biggest that the company hosts.
FLW’s decision to move the tournament from Hartford has Marfuggi questioning how the state can better serve itself.
“What we’re starting to realize is that we need to find a mechanism to make it easier to respond to an event like this,” he said. “It’s something that generates revenue and is an absolute net gain for everyone. What we have started talking about is creating a revolving fund, a pool of money that would help out with these sorts of commitments.”
Without a streamlined process, Marfuggi says it is very difficult to take advantage of a terrific event.
CCEDA’s public relations director Terryl Mitchell Smith said Marfuggi’s idea of a revolving pool of funds is a good one “concept-wise.”
“It would make things easier to know that there was funding and it wouldn’t be a scramble,” she said. “It would be a known factor.”
City officials are disappointed by the news and are willing to consider solutions to prevent a similar situation from happening it the future, said Sarah Barr, the mayor’s spokeswoman.
Officials from FLW Outdoors were unavailable for comment at press time, but the company’s president and CEO Charlie Evans described Hartford as a “great host” and he would “look forward to a return visit in the future” in a written statement.