Air Race Future: A Looming Question For Reno Area Economy

Sometime in the months ahead organizers of the Reno Air Races will face a decision on the future of the event. Economically, there

Courtesy of Garrett Woodman via CNN

Five days after an aircraft plunged to the ground at the Reno-Stead Airport killing 11 and injuring scores more, the focus remains on the victims and the investigation into the cause.

Any decision on the future of the races may be months away,.but there's little doubt about what's at stake economically for the Reno area.

Beginning in 1964, the air races have been one of the biggest special events on the calendar for a community which has come to depend a great deal on special events.

It draws participants and spectators from across the country and people in our hotel casino industry say it's a well-heeled crowd. Estimates from the organizers indicate an annual impact of $80 million dollars.

"The event that probably compares from an economic standpoint is the US Bowling Congress," says spokesman Ben McDonald of the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority.

The months-long bowling tournament brought an estimated $95 million into the local economy this year.

"We would hope this event would continue," says Kimberlee Tolkien, the Executive Director of Administration at the Atlantis Hotel Casino.

Tolkien doesn't dismiss safety concerns, but says they are well recognized.

"This is a high risk event," she says. "The people who go to it know that. The people who participate in it know that. We've had 48 years with nothing like this. It was a freak accident and it could have happened anywhere."

Tolkien is quick to point out that the community response to the disaster has been remarkable and the Atlantis and other hotels have been part of that effort, helping arrange transportation for family of injured guests, even continuing to host an injured guest still unable to travel.

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