Reno Air Races organizers optimistic in keeping event alive

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Reno Air Races organizers optimistic in keeping event alive

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After a recent desperate plea for funding support, organizers for the Reno National Championship Air Races are optimistic that they will soon have enough pledges to keep next year's event alive.

Late last month, the organization announced that it must raise $500,000 in funding commitments by December 15 to continue meeting operational costs next year.

Before making the announcement, the group cut its staff and imposed both wage and benefit reductions.

Since then, spokesman Mike Draper says the response from the local community and from people around the world has been strong.

"We've seen a lot of people who we do business with work to reduce the amount that we owe them for the past year. We've seen our local community, some of the casino properties and some of the other entities, stepping up to help us reach our goal."

The event has been strained financially since a plane crash in 2011, which killed a pilot and ten spectators.

After the incident, the event's insurance premium spiked from $400,000 a year to $2 million, which is a significant chunk of the nonprofit's $5 million budget.

The premium has since gone down to $1.2 million, but its financial effects on the organization have continued to loom.

Draper says losing this event would be a devastating blow to the region's economy.

"Our most recent research study done three or four years ago indicated that the event has an economic impact on this community of about $60 million to $70 million. Throughout the week period, we get 200,000 spectators and those people stay in rooms, eat at restaurants, fill up their cars at gas stations, go to the grocery store--all that kind of stuff."

The organization will make a formal announcement Thursday about the pledges it has received in the last few weeks.

The Reno Air Races celebrated its fiftieth anniversary this year.