Details of Sonoma County’s Super Bowl pledge shrouded

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The Press Democrat could not ascertain exactly how much three Sonoma County groups are spending on their Super Bowl promotional effort and other details of the initiative after being denied a request for a copy of their contract with the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee.

An attorney representing Sonoma County Tourism, the lead group in the Super Bowl promotion effort, rejected a written request for the contract filed under the state Public Records Act by the First Amendment Coalition. The denial cited trade secrets contained in the contract.

A similar request also was denied by Visit Napa Valley, the lead agency for Napa County’s efforts.

The three local groups — Sonoma County Tourism, Sonoma County Vintners and Sonoma County Winegrowers — combined to pledge nearly $1 million in funding, wine and other services to the host committee, tourism agency CEO Ken Fischang said.

Sonoma County Tourism provided $360,000 for the Super Bowl effort, including $150,000 in cash and $50,000 in lodging services, Fischang said. Sonoma County hotels provided an additional $50,000 worth of services to the Super Bowl organizing committee for lodging and meetings. Construction of the wine lounge cost $85,000.

Sonoma County Tourism is a nonprofit agency that has contracted with the Board of Supervisors to promote tourism in the county, serving as the official destination marketing organization. It had a $7.2 million budget for 2015, with $2.7 million coming from county hotel taxes and $4.3 million from assessments on hotels, which are typically passed onto visitors on their bill. The Super Bowl initiative was funded with money from the assessments on hotels, not hotel taxes collected by the county, Fischang said.

Sonoma County Winegrowers spent less than $100,000 for the Super Bowl programs, said Karissa Kruse, president of the group, which represents more than 1,800 grape growers. The group has an annual budget of slightly more than $1 million this year coming from fees assessed on local grape growers, which were used to fund the Super Bowl effort, Kruse said. In addition, it was allocated $51,000 in hotel tax revenues from Sonoma County last year to promote local agriculture, according to county records.

Sonoma County Vintners declined to reveal how much it contributed to the Super Bowl effort. The trade group, which represents more than 250 wineries and affiliated businesses, worked with its members to provide wine that will be served at the wine lounge in Super Bowl City and private VIP events, said Carolyn Stark, the group’s executive director. Members provided approximately 1,000 cases to be poured at the various private events as part of the contract, she said. Overall, 54 of the group’s member wineries are participating.

In addition to the contract, Sonoma County wineries sold about 1,500 cases to the concessionaire that is licensed to pour at Super Bowl City, she said.

Stark said the group did not fund the effort from $57,000 in hotel tax revenues that it was allocated from Sonoma County last year. In its 2014 application for the county funds, the vintners were part of a group that noted such hotel tax receipts could be used to support the promotion of local Super Bowl programs.

“The partnership will result in significant national media exposure and engagement with millions of visitors to the Super Bowl 50 Fan Village and other related events,” the application reads.

The three groups received a total of 12 Super Bowl game tickets as part of the contract, but they were auctioned off for charity, Fischang said. Two were given to a local grape grower in a raffle for those who completed a sustainability study of their vineyards.

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