Network, Tahoe Want to Continue Celebrity Tourney

By  | 

NBC Sports wants to negotiate a deal to keep the American Century celebrity golf tournament at Lake Tahoe indefinitely, a network official said Saturday.

"As far as NBC is concerned, it's our 14th year and it's as big as it's ever been and continues to grow," said Jon Miller, vice president of programming for NBC Sports.

"It's our intention to make sure that we do everything we can to make sure the event stays here a long time," he said.

NBC is in talks with Edgewood-Tahoe Golf Course and the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority to extend the deal that brings more than 70 sports stars and celebrities to course on the shores of the lake and in the shadow of a strip of Nevada casinos.

Bill Chernock, executive director of the LTVA, said the community has no intention of letting the three-day tournament get away.

"Everyone is operating under the assumption that this tournament will continue to be held at Lake Tahoe for years," Chernock said Saturday.

"The five hours of live TV on NBC is enormous for us," he said.

The network has another two years left in its current title sponsorship agreement with American Century, a Kansas City, Mo.,-based investment company.

"I'm not going to kid you, there are a lot of places that call us and say, `When your deal is up, we'd like to put something together," Miller told reporters at Edgewood-Tahoe on Saturday.

"They are all good venues and have great golf courses and great facilities. But we don't think there is anything that matches the magic of what you have here," he said.

"I think everybody feels confident that we are going to find a way to keep this as our home," he said. "We've been on this event for 14 years and we can't wait until July comes around."

Miller said he expects this year's tournament to break the attendance record set last year of 25,000. He said the field of celebrities "by any measurement is the strongest field we have ever had."

This year's players include Michael Jordan, John Elway, Troy Aikman, Charles Barkley, Jason Kidd, Mario Lemieux, Dennis Quaid, Dennis Miller and Rush Limbaugh.

Miller said the idea for the tournament was born in 1989 when NBC ended its contract with Major League Baseball.

"We were looking for programming to fill the void," he said.

"We had no other supporting sponsors. It was a whole different game. For the first two or three years, we had lost a lot of money on it.

"To steal a line from the Virginia Slim campaign, we've come a long way, baby."