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City to woo tourism

Posted: May 4, 2009 9:54 p.m.
Updated: May 5, 2009 4:55 a.m.

If a dismal economy has done anything, it's made Santa Clarita officials more aggressive about bringing in visitors.

"Cultural and sports tourism are at the top of the list," city spokeswoman Gail Ortiz said Monday.

Among those events are the annual Cowboy Festival, the Amgen Tour of California and the Santa Clarita Marathon.

"We've come a long way from (being) ‘that place next to Magic Mountain,'" Ortiz said.

At the top of the city's to-do list is finding a new sponsor for the Champions Classic golf tournament, which was sponsored by AT&T between 2004 and 2009. AT&T pulled out this year as the title sponsor - a contribution of roughly $2 million.

The weeklong event brought in approximately $7 million in economic benefit annually to the city - not something City Hall wants to see dissipate.

Economic benefit includes the spike in revenue seen by businesses such as hotels and restaurants.

"We are reaching out to businesses locally, regionally and statewide," Ortiz said. "We reached out big time to the business community (for help)."

The city needs to secure a title sponsor within the next month to ensure the tournament is still a go, she said.

"It's a distinct possibility that the tournament will not return to Santa Clarita next year, based on what we're hearing from businesses we're talking to," she said. "Businesses are finding it very difficult to spend this kind of sponsorship money in today's economic climate."

Ortiz said there have been discussions, but no solid ideas on what could potentially fill the gap left by not having the golf tournament.

City officials also have high hopes for bringing back the Amgen Tour of California in 2010.

The Tour de France-style bicycle race has come through Santa Clarita the past three years. While no results have been made public yet for 2009, Ortiz said 2008's stop brought about $2 million in economic benefit into the city.

"We try very hard to bring those sort of things here," she said. "Amgen has said we are far and away their favorite city to come to."

The city likely got another shot in the arm from last weekend's Cowboy Festival, which Ortiz said likely drew about 10,000 people.
The city spends about $170,000 on the festival, none of which brings a direct return. However, Ortiz said the economic benefit far outweighs the expense.

In June, the city will see an influx of revenue from the Western States Police and Fire Games, which Ortiz said will be held at 60 different venues throughout the valley.

The Olympic-style competitions draw competitors from Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

"These kind of events are fun for residents and beneficial for businesses," Ortiz said, because as with other events in the SCV, participants and fans tend to patronize local hotels and restaurants.

Late last month, the City Council approved a sweeping $5.2 million plan to stimulate the local economy. Included in that plan is the "Think Santa Clarita Valley" campaign. It's designed to draw in consumers, plus, Ortiz said, visitors to city events.

"We're competing with other communities (for visitors)," she said.

As part of the "Think" campaign, Ortiz said the city will be more aggressive in marketing itself.

For example, she said ads will be placed at Bob Hope International Airport in Burbank.

"A lot of the city's effort is going to be outside the valley," Ortiz said.


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