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Tourism agency backs Reno air races

The Nevada Commission on Tourism on Thursday approved a one-time, $600,000 sponsorship of the Reno National Championship Air Races.

In light of last year’s crash near the grandstand that killed 11 and injured more than 70, the Reno Air Racing Association has had trouble securing insurance to cover the event. When the association finally secured insurance, the premiums, would total $1.7 million with the first payment due in weeks.

In the past, the organization paid an annual insurance premium of $300,000.

“We are all well aware of the tragedies that occurred last year. Depending on the point of view, the tragedy could be compounded with the tragedy of (losing) that event,” Nevada Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki said.

September’s races will mark the 49th year of the event, which draws between 200,000 and 215,000 attendees each year and has an economic impact of $55 million to $80 million to the state.

“Inspired by overwhelming sentiment of the victims and their families … we decided to continue this event,” said Dave Pursell, chairman of the Reno Air Racing Association’s board of directors.

Reno Air Racing Association President and CEO Mike Houghton said, “We have run through an enormous amount of hurdles to get to this point.”

The Nevada Commission on Tourism’s sponsorship will be funded from a surplus of state room tax revenues.

The racing association is paying $1 million toward the premium and has secured $500,000 in sponsorship pledges from hotels and casinos in the Reno-Tahoe area.

“Technically the commission doesn’t traditionally consider this kind of item,” Krolicki said. “We felt this was extraordinary and we don’t want to set precedent.”

Commissioner Chris Baum, president and CEO of the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority, said not having the event could be an “incredible blow for not only Northern Nevada, but to the entire state.”

Commissioner Rossi Ralenkotter, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, said, “This is critical. We’re seeing increases in our visitor counts. … We need to keep that momentum going.”

Houghton and Pursell from the racing association said they’ve worked with the Federal Aviation Administration to change the operating structure of the event since last year’s tragedies.

“I do consider this a one-time opportunity,” Krolicki emphasized.

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