Rumors have been flying around town since Bryan Dangerfield, City of Mesquite Athletic Director, quietly announced at the Oct. 9 City Council meeting that the annual Long Drivers of America golf championship was "in its 17th and final year in Mesquite."
Art Sellinger, Chief Executive Officer of the Long Drivers of America (LDA) and official host of the event, released an email statement to the media Tuesday evening, Oct. 16, about the event ending in Mesquite.
The Mesquite Citizen Journal spoke to Andre Carrier, Eureka Casino and Hotel Chief Operating Officer, about the issue on Wednesday Oct. 17. Carrier recently assumed the Chairmanship of the Mesquite Resort Association (MRA).
Mesquite Gaming representatives declined to comment for this article.
"While we are a minority member of the MRA, we are happy to share our observations about the event's end in Mesquite," Carrier said.
Sellinger said in his email "I wish to emphasize that the decision to terminate the relationship with Mesquite that dates back to 1997 was not, repeat not, initiated by Long Drivers of America (LDA). Rather, the decision was made unilaterally by members of the Mesquite Resort Association (MRA) board, Mr. Randy Black and Mr. Greg Lee."
The MRA is comprised of representatives from Mesquite Gaming Inc., who owns the CasaBlanca Casino and Hotel and the Virgin River Casino and Hotel, along with representatives of the Eureka.
The amount of hotel room tax contributions denotes the amount of influence each company has within the MRA. Mesquite Gaming controls over 1,000 rooms while the Eureka has approximately 214.
Carrier remarked, "The MRA works hand-in-hand with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) to promote events in Mesquite. However, it is not our (Eureka) place to contradict Mesquite Gaming's business interests. The (financial) health of the largest hotel operator in Mesquite is essential to the health of Mesquite."
Sellinger's email continued with "I was informed of MRA’s decision on the eve of a meeting scheduled for Sept. 26 in Las Vegas. MRA officials through another party informed me, in essence, to cancel my trip to Las Vegas to discuss 2013 and beyond because, going forward, MRA’s plans for its marketing budget no longer included supporting the RE/MAX championship. I was not given the opportunity to present the future plans for the LDA and this great event."
Carrier explained to the MCJ that "In our observation, it came down to two basic issues; money and timing. Over the last five years, Mesquite hotels have apportioned over half a million dollars to the promoter of the LDA from its LVCVA special events budget."
"Over those years as the economy has weakened, room revenues declined, therefore room taxes collected have declined. Thus, the special events budget has declined because it's directly proportional to room taxes collected," Carrier added.
Under the contract between the LDA organization and the MRA, Carrier explained that 900 to 1,000 hotel rooms were 'comped' (given free of charge) to the promoter by the MRA. "The Eureka alone was required to comp 160 rooms to the LDA promoter plus provide a free poker tournament. The rest of the rooms were the responsibility of Mesquite Gaming."
When it came to the issue of timing, Carrier explained that the LDA Championship previously was scheduled for the very end of October and the first of November. Last year, the ten-day event was moved up to the middle of October, presumably because the weather was better.
According to LVCVA visitor reports, October is the most popular month for Mesquite tourists of any in the second half of the year. "October has really strengthened in terms of paying customers for the hotels in Mesquite. People have realized our weather is really good at that time. It's our best month out of the last six months of the year," Carrier added.
"That's why it became more difficult to provide the comped rooms. It's more expensive for us to provide those rooms in our peak season than in an off-peak time," he added.
"It's my understanding that an offer was made to the promoter to move the Championship week to July or August and run it in the evening but the promoter said that was not possible," Carrier
According to the LVCVA visitor reports for Mesquite tourists, the Average Daily Room Rate in October 2011 was $57.04. In July 2011, that rate was $45.58; August was $43.75; and November was $51.16.
Visitor volumes in October 2011 were 91,200; July was 89,052; August was 73,894; and November had 75,620 visitors. Only two months of the year see more visitors than October; March with 99,231 visitors and April with 94,897 people coming into Mesquite.
In Sellinger's email, he said, "As things stand, LDA has no site lined up to host the 2013 RE/MAX world championship. Now we will have to, but again, this move is not of our own volition. Simply put, MRA invited us not to come back to Mesquite after this year. End of story."
"Please let me point out how proud LDA is to have had Mesquite as a partner and a championship venue these past 16 years. Through the RE/MAX World WLDC, LDA has showcased Mesquite as a prime desert golf destination to a worldwide audience. We have helped put Mesquite on the golf map globally and we take pride and satisfaction in knowing that. Additionally, we're proud to bring our annual Diamond in the Desert, Desert Launch, and LDA Power Academies (to Mesquite) totaling more than 20 competition days annually," Sellinger continued.
"Moreover, LDA was instrumental in working with the City of Mesquite, Pulte and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority in the planning and developing of the Mesquite Sports and Event Complex, a tremendous asset for this community. We’re also pleased to have been able to make contributions to the city’s Parks and Recreation Department over the years."
Sellinger's email statement went on to say, "In closing, I wish to note that LDA is indebted to Mesquite sponsors, merchants, volunteers and fans, and all the numerous individuals who have supported the RE/MAX WLDC since we arrived in 1997 and began an amazing run.
"It has absolutely been a great relationship. On behalf of Long Drivers of America, RE/MAX and members of the power golf community, I extend a sincere thank you (to) Mesquite. Come by and see us at this year’s RE/MAX finals. We’ll be on the tee from October 17-25. Let’s make some more memories in Mesquite before the curtain comes down and the show is over."
"The Eureka has not been as active and tenacious in our involvement with LVCVA special events promotions as perhaps we should have been through the years," Carrier remarked. "This year Greg (Lee) joined the Board of Directors at the LVCVA and I asked to take a turn as the Chairman of the MRA as a way to increase our participation."
"We understand that getting new 'eyeballs' on Mesquite is essential to increasing the number of people who know about the City. The Long Drive Championship did a good job of that," Carrier explained. "We promise to work tenaciously to get those new 'eyeballs' in a variety of ways. However, we feel it's important for people to know and understand what occurred in this situation."
The City of Mesquite also contributes approximately $40,000 per year to the LDA out of its General Fund.
According to information supplied to the MCJ by Dangerfield, "the leading independent sports marketing research firm Joyce Julius & Associates (Ann Arbor, MI) has calculated the television value for Mesquite at $3,957,105. That figure represents a substantial return on Mesquite's current sponsorship level."
"Additionally, R & R partners intercept study for 2011 valued the local economic impact at $1,503,800. This study's numbers reflect the one-day event and not 20 days of competition throughout the year and was commissioned by the LVCVA."
Dangerfield's report said that the LDA Championship week draws about 335 competitors and their families to Mesquite.
Lee, President of the Eureka Casino and Hotel, commented to the MCJ in an email that "This is a complex issue that affects Mesquite Gaming very differently from the Eureka, and it affects the City of Mesquite differently as well. He also said that he had conversations some time ago with Mesquite Mayor Mark Wier and Councilman George Rapson about the event's cancellation, letting them know the background. Rapson is the Mesquite representative on the LVCVA Board of Directors. Wier and Rapson were not contacted by the MCJ for this article.