ATLANTIC CITY — The Atlantic City Airshow will bring almost a half million people to town starting Aug. 19, and is expanding with new acts and a first-ever Monday night barbecue and night jump by the U.S. Army Golden Knights at Linwood Country Club.

An extra $100,000 from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority made the expansion possible. The board increased funding to $152,850 to the Greater Atlantic City Chamber, which organizes the show with the help of community groups and the city.

So far, the show has focused solely on entertainment, and that is the plan going forward, said chamber Executive Vice President Michael Chait.

“We have a $45 million economic impact, attracting 400,000 people to the area,” Chait said. “We are working on maintaining and growing and expanding the week for additional events. Keeping people here longer is our short- and long-term goal.”

Jim Johnson, special counsel to Gov. Phil Murphy and co-author of the state’s transition report on Atlantic City, believes the show could also expand with aviation-industry events.

“We have a great asset in Atlantic City International Airport,” Johnson said during a Press of Atlantic City editorial board meeting this year. “I’m thinking how that can be used. We could imagine the airshow to be a place where there is actually more business getting done.”

He said it’s great and exciting to see jets over the city, “but imagine if Atlantic City became a destination for sales the way say the Paris Air Show is. That’s something we could think about doing here.”

According to websites and publications serving the aviation industry, many airshows in the country have a static component as well as a performance component. It may not include sales, but it does bring people to airports to look at various models of airplane, tour them and walk around them.

“Anything like that is absolutely an opportunity. I don’t know how possible it is,” Chait said.

Chait said room availability might be a problem. There are about 17,000 rooms in the resort now, and they are generally sold out in August.

For the right show, booked far enough out, rooms would be available, said Meet AC President and CEO Jim Wood. Meet AC books conventions for the city.

“There is (exhibit) space in the convention center, so all things are possible,” Wood said, adding the city has not hosted many aviation-industry events. “In general, it’s still peak season, and (casino hotel rooms) sell out during August seven days a week just about.”

He said there would be room challenges, but a midweek convention could work — especially if it were booked years ahead and casinos could hold rooms.

The convention center has not tried to piggyback on the airshow, Wood said.

The city regularly hosts car, recreation vehicle and boat shows.

“They are all consumer shows,” Wood said. “When you talk about aviation, it’s a different audience.”

Of the dozens of airshows nationally, he doesn’t know of any in the U.S. that combines business and entertainment, like the biannual Paris Air Show does.

“The Paris Air Show is on a whole different scale than what you see domestically in the U.S.,” Wood said.

The county is working on developing the National Aviation Research and Technology Park at Atlantic City International Airport in Egg Harbor Township, and bringing aircraft maintenance and repair operations to the region.

But Wood said he has not been approached about trying to bring in shows of aviation industries, to introduce companies to the area and airport.

“We have not had that conversation with the county yet. We would be more than happy to evaluate those options if they are out there,” Wood said. “It would be terrific if there were the chance to … grow that segment.”

This year’s show will be subtitled “A Salute to Those That Serve,” replacing the long-running “Thunder Over the Boardwalk.”

In addition to a Monday night barbecue and jump, for the first time this year there will also be a veterans fair on the Boardwalk during the practice day Tuesday and the show itself Wednesday.

And the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force Red Arrows will make their first appearance in the resort. It’s also the first time in 11 years they have come to the U.S.

“They are flying in nine airshows, and we’re one of them,” Chait said. “They come here and fly right to New York (for the show there) Wednesday night.”

CRDA Board Chairman Robert Mulcahy said the show brings in $1.9 million in state and local taxes and $900,000 in luxury taxes.

Contact: 609-272-7219 mpost@pressofac.com Twitter @MichelleBPost

Staff Writer

In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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