Tour of Georgia uncertain

The clock is ticking down for the Tour de Georgia. Just six weeks before the April 16 start date, the organizers have yet to replace last year's title sponsor, the Georgia Ford Dealers' Association, who declined to continue sponsorship last June. According to the Atlanta Business Journal, the Tour de Georgia has raised $1.5 million so far, with Georgia Department of Economic Development committing $400,000 to become the biggest single sponsor to date. Delta Air Lines, GE Energy and United Community Bank, have also committed to sponsorship, but the race still needs close to $800,000, which amounts to more than one third of the overall operating budget.

The executive director of the Tour de Georgia and a managing partner for Medalist Sports, Chris Aronhalt, wants the race to go off as scheduled. "We are also very realistic and concerned by our current shortfall. We are definitely looking at all the options," he told the Macon Telegraph. "Right now, the (financial) gap is fairly large. But on the upside, there are a lot of positive discussions. We're so dangerously close to the event, and the cities, the teams, the spectators would be devastated. To Medalist, an event cancellation is not in our realm of possibilities."

The Tour de Georgia was initially sponsored by Dodge, then by Ford, but large financial losses in the US automobile industry have caused those companies to cut back on support of events like the Tour. Craig Lesser, Tour de Georgia Chairman, is optimistic about finding a new sponsor, citing good economic times in the state and a wide appeal of the event.

"When you see the Tour de Georgia, you realize that this race is about much more (than a bicycle race)," Lesser told the Macon Telegraph. "This really is about tourism. It's about a festival-like atmosphere in the communities across the state. And unless you've experienced that, it's kind of tough to convey that to people. I truly believe we will get the sponsorship dollars because we know it's such a worthwhile cause."

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