Aurora ends U.S. Bank Championship sponsorship

Milwaukee-based Aurora Health Care has decided it will no longer be a major sponsor for the U.S. Bank Championship, an Aurora spokesman says.

Aurora, the region’s largest health care provider, had been the second-largest sponsor for the golf tournament. Its multi-year sponsorship deal with the tournament ended after the 2008 event.

“We plan to continue to have a relationship with the tournament but not as a major sponsor,” said Aurora spokesman Jeff Squire. “We wish the tournament well.”

Squire said Aurora’s future relationship with the golf tournament has yet to be determined, but it will involve a significantly smaller financial commitment than a major sponsorship. He also declined to say why Aurora no longer wants to sponsor the tournament.

Meanwhile, the largest sponsor for the tournament, Minneapolis-based U.S. Bancorp, could end its sponsorship after the 2009 tournament.

In 2006, the tournament and U.S. Bank agreed to a six-year contract. However, the contract includes a clause that allows the sponsor or the tournament to end the partnership after next year.

“Our contract is good through 2009,” said Steve Dale, U.S. Bancorp spokesman. “Just as we do with every sponsorship, we always re-evaluate them on a year-to-year basis, and we will do that again after next year’s tournament.”

If the tournament and U.S. Bancorp agree to continue after 2009, the bank will remain the title sponsor until 2012, at least.

Tournament director Daniel Croak says he is “hopeful” that U.S. Bancorp will continue its financial support for the tournament. He says conversations with U.S. Bank officials indicate a desire to continue to support the event.

“We have not talked to them in terms of it not going forward,” Croak said.

The recession will not make it any easier to sell tickets or attract sponsors for Milwaukee’s PGA Tour event. The tournament already struggles to attract top golfers, especially now that the PGA schedules the event on the same weekend as the British Open. The tournament does not keep detailed attendance figures, but parking and concession revenue indicate that attendance was up slightly in 2008, Croak said. The tournament estimates its attendance at 80,000 to 85,000 for the week.

The 2009 U.S. Bank Championship will be held July 13-19 at Brown Deer Park Golf Course.

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