By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor
The well-known week of racing in Philadelphia, which used to culminate with the USPRO road championships and was most recently known in 2008 as the Commerce Bank Triple Crown, will be undergoing some major changes for 2009 – the biggest of which involves the purchase of its title sponsor by another bank, the Canadian TD Bank. While TD Bank is still interested in title sponsoring the Philadelphia Championship, now in its 25th year, and the women's Liberty Classic, the fates of the other two race venues in Allentown and Reading are in jeopardy.
"TD Bank took over Commerce Bank last summer, and they are committed to title sponsorship for 2009, along with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania," race organizer Dave Chauner told Cyclingnews. "They just switched on 1 November so it is still early, they are working on the whole re-branding initiative at the moment – but they have expressed interest in seeing [the race] grow. We met with the president who was at the race [last year] and he loved it."
However, the bank does not have branches in Reading and a smaller presence in Allentown, so sponsorship there is not in their marketing plans. "The bank does not have branches in the Reading footprint, so they cannot justify sponsoring that," said Chauner. "We met with Allentown and the bank does not want to be the title sponsor but will definitely consider a supporting sponsorship, so we are looking to find a new title sponsor to come in there."
Chauner said that with TD Bank providing some resources for the Allentown race a possible scenario with a new title sponsor could see the race still happen, but that Reading is not likely. However, the positive side is that the bank is very keen on seeing the Philadelphia races continue.
"The real good news is that we are discussing a multi-year agreement with TD Bank for the Philadelphia race. We are definitely on for 2009 and are looking at a five year renewal – it looks very promising."
This is good news for the Philly race as it is now going to cost organizers more money to put on the race, with the city in huge debt and facing massive budget shortfalls. "One of the challenges is that the city is in dire financial straits and the mayor said he cannot fund special events. He absolutely loves the race, but he is facing tough times. [The city] has always been a sponsor, in terms of in-kind or capped fees for services. But now we are working out a new relationship with the city and will have to determine what those costs will be."