Miss America Final

The final night of the Miss America Competition, at Boardwalk Hall, in Atlantic City, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2018. (Vernon Ogrodnek / For The Press of Atlantic City).

As contestants start to gear up for competition on the state level, the Miss America Organization is still working to secure a venue for this year’s national competition.

Even after a lawsuit against the MAO that disputed the national leadership’s ability to govern the 51 state pageants ended last month, there is still some lingering division among state pageant leaders and volunteers.

But there is one question they all share — where and when will state winners compete for the Miss America 2020 crown?

The MAO said Monday it is discussing several viable venues.

“Once the Miss America Board of Directors has reviewed these exciting options, an announcement will be made,” the organization said in a statement. “As history has shown, in a year of contract renewal, this is standard practice.”

David Holtzman, the Miss New Jersey Education Foundation’s new executive director, said the pageant could move from its traditional early September spot on the calendar.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that (the pageant) will happen. That’s not an issue,” Holtzman said. “I don’t know if it’ll be in the fall, but it’ll happen.”

The Miss America 2019 Competition in Atlantic City fulfilled the final year of a three-year, $12 million state subsidy contract between the MAO and the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority.

With the CRDA’s spending questioned by state officials, the contract was not renewed and Miss America has had to find a new financier for its production.

But even without local funding, local leaders believe Atlantic City is a potential location.

“They want to keep it here if they can,” said Holtzman. “They love the history. They love Atlantic City.”

Miss America Vice President of Development Brent Adams confirmed the MAO leadership has taken meetings in Atlantic City but said there is no news to announce just yet.

According to the MAO, the 2020 competition, as well as preparations for the 100th anniversary in 2021, were agenda items at meetings the MAO held with state executive directors, including Holtzman, two weeks ago in Orlando, Florida, at Children’s Miracle Network week.

But Holtzman, who recently moved the Miss New Jersey Pageant to Atlantic City from Ocean City, said there are still “a lot of pieces to the puzzle.”

He’s unsure whether the venue will be historic Boardwalk Hall, where the competition was traditionally held in the past.

“Unfortunately, it’s very expensive to have things at Boardwalk Hall, and when they were getting large sums of money from CRDA it worked, and now that’s not happening,” Holtzman said.

CRDA provided $4.325 million annually as a top sponsor for the production of the competition.

“I think they want to spread it across town as far as people helping them and in return doing something special with the young ladies for the sponsors,” Holtzman said.

The MAO also has to solidify a deal with a television network, Holtzman said. And with today’s technology, he thinks there are a couple of directions they could go in.

“They’re modernizing the organization to generate more dollars for scholarships,” he said.

Still, he said he has not heard of anything that is finalized.

“My gut feeling is it will be here, but sometimes I worry,” he said. “Atlantic City is a unique town. Sometimes they don’t work together — the casinos — they’re more in competitions with each other.”

Members of the CRDA have previously said they are not opposed to having the competition in Atlantic City, but not at the same price the city paid for the past six years.