One year before its 100th anniversary, the Miss America Organization is actively searching for a new home.
According to a request for proposal filed Sept. 25 with the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, the MAO is interviewing cities to host the next two years of the competition. The Press of Atlantic City obtained the document through an Open Public Records Act request.
Also, Miss America is exploring the idea of moving the pageant from Boardwalk Hall to other venues in the city, according to emails obtained by The Press.
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Ocean Resort Casino owner Bruce Deifik said he spoke with Miss America chairwoman Gretchen Carlson on Tuesday, offering hotel space and Ovation Hall to the pageant.
The Miss America Organization did not return calls for comment.
CRDA Chairman Robert Mulcahy said Tuesday the board has not discussed any proposals to fund Miss America in the resort in the future.
Deifik said he expects to hear back from Carlson in a few days.
“I need to know how many rooms they need, for how many nights, when they would need Ovation Hall — it’s the perfect setup for them. I would be happy to look at that if I have all the facts.” Deifik said.
Ovation Hall has a 5,700-seat capacity, while the hotel towers have 1,399 rooms. The request for proposal stipulates the performance venue must contain a minimum of 3,000 seats with more than 5,000 preferred.
“We want to make sure that the group and the convention will really, absolutely help the growth and expansion of our small market,” Deifik said.
Deifik said Carlson mentioned the $4.325 million previously provided by the CRDA for the production, but he would not be able to provide the same amount. Deifik and Ocean Resort have not received an official proposal from the MAO.
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Representatives from Caesars Entertainment — owners of Harrah’s Resort, Caesars Atlantic City and Bally’s Atlantic City — Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, Tropicana Atlantic City, Resorts Casino Hotel and Golden Nugget Atlantic City all said their properties have no comment about possibly partnering with the MAO. Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City did not respond to a request for comment.
According to the request for proposal, the MAO requires that a host city provide hotel accommodations, venues for parties and receptions, adequate space for a parade and a performance venue for the three nights of preliminary competition and the televised final.
According to the RFP, proposals from the approached cities were to be submitted to MAO CEO Regina Hopper by Oct. 12 with a decision to be made in December.
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Hopper has mentioned the possibility of using other venues in Atlantic City besides Boardwalk Hall in an effort to reduce production expenses, according to an email from Kristen M. Twyman, Miss America’s director of strategic accounts. The email was obtained by The Press through an Open Public Records Act request.
The MAO estimates fewer than 6,000 people attended the final night of the 2018 Miss America Competition with paid and complimented tickets.
“Recent ticket sales have been 5,880 for the Sunday event,” according to the request for proposal.
The final cost of the Miss America Competition production depends on the venue, according to the proposal. Costs previously ranged from $2.5 million to $4.9 million.
The MAO also requires $325,000 for hotel accommodations, security costs, meals for contestants, chaperones and MAO staff and transportation.
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However, no monetary value was given in the proposal specifying the return on investment for the host city.
The CRDA has been Miss America’s main sponsor since 2012, first subsidizing $7.3 million over three years, then in 2015 agreeing to a $12 million contract, providing an annual $4.3 million under a three-year contract that expired after this year’s competition.
In September, CRDA officials said they would not provide a future state subsidy to the MAO at the same price.
On Tuesday, City Council President Marty Small Sr. said he was not in favor of the amount of money the CRDA spent on the competition in the most recent agreement. Small said that although Miss America was synonymous with Atlantic City, the amount of money spent on the competition could have been better spent on programs and projects that directly benefit city residents.
“There’s no better city than Atlantic City when you combine the venues and the history,” Small said. “However, I do understand that, like most things, it comes down to dollars and cents.”
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Miss America previously moved the pageant from Atlantic City for an eight-year stint in Las Vegas in 2005. At the time, the MAO was facing lackluster event attendance, plummeting prime-time TV ratings and leadership upheaval.
While the operations remained mostly on the East Coast, the annual pageant took up residency in the Theatre for the Performing Arts at the then-Aladdin Hotel-Casino. According to Press archives, the casino, which became the Planet Hollywood owned by Caesars Entertainment in 2007, did not disclose the agreement between the pageant and the casino.
According to tax filings, the MAO has been operating with a negative net income since 2011, with one exception: 2014.
Carlson, a former Fox News anchor and Miss America 1989, became the Miss America Board of Trustees chairwoman in January, following the removal of Sam Haskell and several board members over an email scandal.
Hopper was announced as president and CEO of the organization in May. Both women have drawn the ire of thousands of Miss America volunteers, who claim there is a lack of transparency in the current leadership’s actions.
Staff Writers David Danzis and Michelle Brunetti Post contributed to this report.