New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno spoke at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City during a press conference on Feb. 14 to announce that the Miss America Pageant will return to Atlantic City.

Vernon Ogrodnek

Bringing Miss America back to Atlantic City will cost nearly $7.3 million — an investment officials are confident will be returned to the city in the form of direct visitor spending in the resort.

The funding approved in part by the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority on Monday will be nearly equally spread over the three years during which the Miss America Organization has committed to production in Atlantic City. Action taken Monday authorizes officials to execute a formal contract with the Miss America Organization.

Breakdowns show that the Sept. 15 pageant will see more than $2.5 million in aid. That’s more than three times the amount

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of assistance the pageant had during its last run in Atlantic City in 2005. At that time, officials said it cost more than $1 million to put on the show, with the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority subsidizing $720,000.

That wasn’t enough to keep the Miss America Organization at Boardwalk Hall, an aging venue that’s remained plagued by high labor costs.

On Monday, officials said there is no question that the pageant is worth the investment. A draft economic impact analysis estimates that the pageant and its parade will draw 129,200 people to the resort. Those people are expected to spend more than $32 million in Atlantic City between gambling, shopping, food and beverage, entertainment, lodging and travel. The analysis was completed by NW Financial Group, of Corvallis, Ore., for the authority.

CRDA Executive Director John Palmieri characterized the CRDA’s contribution as a “small investment” and noted that he’s been told the estimates used in the analysis were conservative. The financing approved Monday was for nearly $5 million in CRDA financing over three years. The Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority, which last week received final approvals to merge into the CRDA, will provide another $2.3 million.

“So for $5 million we expect to create an economic impact that might be valued at as much as $120 million,” Palmieri said. “There’s a strong economic case to make, not to mention the psychological benefit that is achieved in having a pageant return to the city where it belongs.”

Funding will be disbursed to the Miss America Organization each year and will offset total production costs, according to CRDA documents. Between $100,000 and $275,000 in each year’s agreement will be used by the CRDA to provide for related expenses, including banners, signage, lighting, landscaping and minor Tourism District improvements.

The Atlantic City Alliance, a casino-funded marketing coalition, will contribute as well in the form of travel expenses, meals and lodging for all contestants.

Representatives of the Miss America Organization could not be reached Monday night. The total cost for producing the pageant has not been released.

New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement Director Dave Rebuck questioned whether the funding commitment might be lowered over time as capital improvements expected to result in savings are made to Boardwalk Hall. The Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority has operated Boardwalk Hall, but the venue’s management will now be transferred to the CRDA with the merger of the organizations.

Palmieri said the funding commitments are not expected to change significantly regardless of improvements, but he noted that the Miss America Organization has said if costs come in lower than expected, the costs could be reduced.

The CRDA on Monday also approved a $1 million fund reservation for a new Tourism District and Community Development Fund intended to finance as-needed maintenance in the Tourism District. That fund could become especially pertinent as the authority looks to improve the city’s appearance in the months leading up to the pageant, officials said.

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