Peyton in place

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:00 AM ET

Last year it was NFL TV broadcaster Chris Berman, this year Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning.

Organizers of the Y Sports Dinner are on quite a roll as far as landing prime time guest speakers for their annual fundraiser.

Manning, the NFL's reigning MVP and a record-tying three-time winner of the award, will headline the 37th Y Dinner, June 16, at the Convention Centre.

"This is a little different than our normal dinner," Ken Kronson, chair of the Rady Jewish Community Centre, said yesterday. "There's only one guy that's bigger in the present time in North America. His name is Tiger."

With Woods busy on the links at that time of year, Manning will have to do.

The 32-year-old is widely considered one of the better quarterbacks in NFL history, a six-time NFL all-pro who led the Colts to the Super Bowl title in 2006.

This season he extended his own NFL record with his ninth 4,000-yard passing season, a year that ended with an unceremonious loss to San Diego in the playoffs last weekend.

The NFL's most marketable player, Manning is a popular front man for advertisers, his talent matched by a wholesome, boy-next-door image.

This is believed to be his first Canadian speaking engagement, and it won't come cheaply.

According to a speakers bureau web site, Berman, last year's headliner, commands a fee of between $50,000 and $100,000.

Manning will command a higher fee than Berman.

"I'd say it's very difficult to acquire him," Kronson said, declining to provide a specific figure. "He certainly is not inexpensive."

But Kronson believes it'll pay off in record ticket sales, a belief backed by the early reaction to yesterday's announcement.

"We're probably pushing $70,000 in sales at this point," Kronson said. "I tested this on a number of select people two or three months ago, who hadn't been to the dinner very often. Corporates. And the response was, 'You get that person, we're coming.' All very positive."

Kronson says the goal is to sell 1,500 tickets, which start at $195 each. Berman attracted just under 1,300 people last year, raising a record $175,000.

Proceeds support Rady Centre programs for immigrants, seniors and low-income kids.

Landing Manning was made possible with the help of former Winnipegger Hart Berger, a Miami-based writer who regularly covers the NFL.

Berger was also instrumental in getting Berman's name on the dotted line in '08.

"To get to the bigger guys you usually need an extra hook," Kronson said. "And Hart, in this case and last year as well, was the hook."

Individual tickets and corporate tables are available through the Rady Centre.


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