PALM HARBOR - PGA Tour officials confirmed Wednesday that Tampa Bay's annual tournament is once again looking for a corporate sponsor.
PODS, the Clearwater-based portable storage unit company that last year signed a six-year agreement to put its name on the March event, has invoked a two-year escape clause and will end involvement following the 2008 tournament.
This means the tournament is seeking its third title sponsor in three years, a lack of commitment that is baffling in that it is part of the high-profile Florida Swing that leads into the Masters, and also that Innisbrook Resort course is one of the tour's most popular stops.
After Chrysler announced it would not to renew a four-year sponsorship following the 2006 event, an almost two-year search for a corporate backer took place until PODS signed its deal last January, just six weeks before tournament week.
But with PODS on the sales block, the tournament involvement apparently no longer seemed attractive even though the tour hugely discounted the $7 million yearly sponsorship cost encourage the 11th-hour signing.
Sept. 3 was the original deadline for PODS to commit to the full six-year agreement, but company officials asked and received an extension until Dec. 31 to make the decision. However, word of impending split surfaced after PODS franchisees received a recent email notice announcing the sponsorship withdrawal. On Wednesday an announcement from tour headquarters made it official.
Despite the setback, tournament director Gerald Goodman remained optimistic for the tournament's future.
"Tampa Bay is a strong market and we do not believe we will have a problem finding another title sponsor,'' he said. "Our area is the 11th largest television market in the United States. Tampa Bay leads the country in a lot of categories in strength of many different products.
"Tampa Bay will be at the forefront of the PGA Tour's effort to find sponsorship.''