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Reno air race insurance still $1 million light after donation

RENO – Even after a local agency agreed to donate $75,000 the Reno Air Racing Association remained $1 million short of the amount it needs to meet its high insurance premium.

Insurance premiums for the Reno National Championship Air Races jumped $1.7 million this year after the Sept. 16 crash that killed 10 people on the ground and pilot Jimmy Leeward.

Race director Mike Houghton told the Reno Gazette-Journal about $1 million has been raised so far. Another $1 million is needed to pay the premium before the Sept. 1 deadline, or the event would be canceled.

The Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority will meet later this month to approve Friday’s vote by its finance committee to contribute $75,000.

“I will sell my soul to the devil (to keep this event alive),” Houghton told the finance committee of the visitors authority Friday.

The air races received a dis­proportionate amount of the visitor authority’s $197,000 special events fund because of the hurdles it faced, officials said.

“Personally, from a strategic perspective, I would like to see this organization support your efforts,” visitor authority Director Paul Curtis said. “I would like to see a 49th air race. I’d like to see a 50th air race, and I think you guys can pull it off. I think we should be there to help you. Having said that, I don’t know what to do about it.”

Houghton told committee members his group is trying to be as creative as possible, but he said a $2 million premium is unsustainable for the future. “You can’t hammer $2 million a year when you are a $5 million-a-year company,” he said.

Houghton said the goal was to get the premium down next year with more national bids.

“We are not going to kid ourselves,” he said. “We are never going to get back to a $300,000 (premium) for a $100 million insurance policy, at least not in my lifetime,” he said. “But we think we can decrease it enough and look at a business strategy in the future to use more of a national involvement in the event.”

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