Reno air races organizers hope to rebound after 2001 woes
RENO, Nev. (AP) — Reno National Championship Air Races organizers hope to fly high this September after the Sept. 11 attacks grounded last year’s event.
The nonprofit Reno Air Racing Association, which runs one of northern Nevada’s biggest annual tourist draws, lost more than $2.1 million last year but has since taken steps to avoid debt.
“We had challenges with cash flow, but with our board’s help, we worked our way through that,” association president Mike Houghton told the Reno Gazette-Journal. “We’ve paid all our bills. Right now, we’re building a program for 2002 and are very optimistic about having a great year.”
In 2000, a record 186,000 people attended the four-day event at Reno Stead Airport. Organizers are banking on a similar turnout this year because they’re guaranteeing a purse equal to the one offered in 2000: $750,000.
The races are set for Sept. 12-15, with practice and qualifications Sept. 8-11.
“What we did was mortgage the future,” Houghton said. “We’re also offering the racers a raise to $800,000 if there is success in sponsors and ticket sales. We’re guaranteeing the ($750,000) prize fund will be there.”
The 2001 purse would have been a record $870,000.
Plans call for the same basic program as last year, including jet races for the first time. But organizers were forced to raise ticket prices by 10 percent.
“The races and air show will not cut back. We must provide a top-notch air show and world-class racing,” Houghton said.
Local businesses are counting on a large turnout at the 38th annual air races to help compensate for last year’s losses.
“It means $30 to $40 million to Reno,” Houghton said.