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RTO getting its act together
by Harry Spencer
Feb 11, 2011 | 1115 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Reno-Tahoe Open (RTO) golf tournament at the Montreux Country Club every year seems to be better organized based on recent news releases. In the past, the RTO has butted heads with a major PGA tourney as well as Hot August Nights and, more recently, with the American Century Celebrity event at Edgewood in South Lake Tahoe.

This year, the management of Reno’s only PGA event has announced a date that starts on Aug. 1, which will not compete with any other major event in the area.

Traditionally, all local events of any magnitude such as the Reno Rodeo, the Annual National Championship Air Races and Air Show, and Hot August Nights have always been very careful to secure dates when they were the only game in town. Unfortunately, in the past, the RTO has not always followed the same strategy and consequently seen its attendance suffer.

This week’s appearance by PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem in Reno gave the RTO a much needed public relations boost when he noted that the PGA will continue to help the RTO search for that one vital element that assures the success of any golf tournament — a title sponsor. Finchem also noted that the PGA is going into some sort of transition with a great host of young players, a staple in the RTO field each year, beginning to join the tour and successfully challenge some of the more established names on the tour. The downward spiral of Tiger Woods is mute testimony to the fact that the old guard might be exiting the scene. In 2010, Woods went without winning a tournament and his star power to attract crowds is definitely waning.

Visually, the Montreux course can compete with any of the 18 holes around the country where the major tournaments are traditionally held. The addition of a title sponsor, which equates to more prize money, and the stand alone date could eventually put the RTO up there with some of the most prestigious events.

Hopefully, as the recession eases, the ability of PGA officials to attract new title sponsors will increase and our local event can some day rank up there with the Big Boys.

Nongaming hotels

Many years ago when the Holiday Hotel, now the shuttered Siena, burst onto the local scene it was advertised as “An Oasis in a Desert of Gambling.” The idea that people coming to Reno to do anything but gamble or maybe get a divorce was soundly disparaged by Harold Smith Sr. in his book, “I Want to Quit Winners.” He correctly noted that Reno’s main attraction was its 24-hour, wide-open lifestyle and that people basically journeyed here from the four corners of the earth to do something they couldn’t legally do anywhere else. He was proven right in the case of the old Holiday Hotel, which was soon sold to Elko entrepreneur Newt Crumley who immediately created a small casino on the property and proved to be one of the top operators in the city prior to his untimely death in a plane he was piloting. The Holiday Hotel continued on successfully through several ownerships that all featured gaming. Even when the Siena opened its doors, it had a hugely expanded casino area.

The foregoing relates to a story that broke this week that the shuttered Fitzgerald’s hotel-casino in downtown Reno currently is undergoing renovation that will eliminate gaming from its new configuration. Instead of the clanging slots and bouncing dice, the new Fitzgerald’s, which will be called the CommRow (Short for Commercial Row) will be themed to attract rock climbers. Whether or not that segment of the population will contribute much to the tourism of this area remains to be seen. Developer Fernando Leal, who built the Montage Condominium project in downtown Reno, seems to have great faith in his new idea and might even include the world’s tallest climbing wall on the outside of the building. No word on whether or not safety nets will be included to protect the passerbys on the sidewalk below.

Pack basketball has a shot

Tonight, if the University of Nevada, Reno basketball team prevails over San Jose State on the road, it could foretell the future of this young Pack team. It would have a legitimate shot at finishing in second place in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) standings at season’s end and could do extremely well in the WAC tournament at the end of the season in Las Vegas. With Utah State suffering its first loss on Wednesday at the hands of Idaho, it means the WAC is settling into the competitive race predicted prior to this season. Utah State will probably go on to capture the number one seed in the tournament, but if Nevada can get to the number two seed, it would mean the two would probably meet in the finals. While Utah State has prevailed over Nevada in the two regular season match-ups, there is no assurance that a red hot Wolf Pack squad would go down in defeat for a third time.

One of the great unknowns for Coach David Carter this year is which Dario Hunt is going to show up for the game. When Hunt is not plagued by early foul trouble he can be an awesome force at both ends of the court. His recently spectacular 19-rebound game is testimony of how effective he can be when he plays for major minutes. In addition, he has emerged as one of the better free throw shooters on the team, a skill that eluded him in his first two years wearing the Silver and Blue. Another factor, Duke transfer Olek Czyz needs to have some breakout performances such as the one he posted against Arizona State early in the season. Putting the ball in the hoop is still the answer to a successful season and coach Carter has promised the up-tempo offense he predicted for this season is beginning to come true. In essence, Nevada might be peaking at the right time.

Harry Spencer is a freelance writer in Reno. His column about the past and present of northern Nevada appears weekly in the Tribune.

Editor’s note: Opinions expressed in Harry Spencer’s column are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Tribune.
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