The Professional Bowlers Association announced yesterday that Toledo's PBA National Championship Tournament will become the most lucrative event on the sport's tour.
The PBA also said it has entered into a three-year television deal with ESPN which will provide live coverage of 20 events, including the Toledo tournament. Even more significantly, the PBA announced it will increase its prize fund by a whopping 139 percent from $1.8 million to $4.3 million.
The moves will nearly triple the total purse for the Toledo National Championship Tournament, which also will be renamed.
According to PBA sources, the winner of Toledo's new PBA World Championship will take home $120,000. Last February, the entire prize fund for the event totaled only $150,000.
Sherry Gratop, co-owner of the tournament's host bowling center, Southwyck Lanes, said many of the details of the deal have not been worked out but the announcement will have “a tremendous impact” on the local event.
“We're hoping this will bring back the good old times,” Gratop said. “We're looking at signing a five-year contract. (The PBA) has no interest in taking the tournament from Toledo.”
In fact, the PBA World Championship will have the highest prize fund among the tour's 20 events. The total purse will be $402,000. Second place will be worth $50,000 and even the last person to qualify for match play (128th place) will be guaranteed $500.
The format may be tweaked a bit but it will be very similar to the 2000 set up, according to Gratop.
The Pro-Am events will take place Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 23 and 24. A day of practice will be held the following day and qualifying will take place Feb. 26-28.
Match play, which will once again take place on Friday and Saturday, will be changed from eight-game blocks to six-game blocks. The five-man stepladder finals will be televised live on ESPN at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 3.
The financial windfall was announced just over a year after three former Microsoft executives bought out the nearly bankrupt organization. The three men changed the PBA from a non-profit to a for-profit organization and brought in Nike marketing executive Steve Miller as its president.
In the fall of 2000, the PBA became the first sports league to distribute stock options to its athletes.
PBA chairman Chris Peters said money for the increased prize funds will be generated through increases in tournament entries and PBA membership, and from “new and pending sponsors.”
ESPN, which will televise four to six summer events on Sundays and Tuesdays, has shown PBA tournaments since 1985. The 2000 PBA National Championship was taped on a Saturday and shown the following day, but the event last February was shown live on the network.
“This will do nothing but make this event even better,” Gratop said.