Miss America organization threatens to leave Atlantic City; asks concessions from state, city

Wednesday, December 19th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) _ After 80 years here, organizers of the Miss America pageant say they will go looking for a new suitor unless the can reach a better deal to keep the event in Atlantic City.

Robert M. Renneisen Jr., the pageant's chief executive officer, said Wednesday that the pageant was losing as much as $600,000 a year by holding the event in Convention Hall.

Speaking at a news conference, he said the pageant needed to cut costs by nearly $1 million if it stayed in the city. He called on state and city officials to ``step up to the plate'' with more concessions and money.

``We think we should stay, but we can't take that to the bank,'' Renneisen said.

Four alternate venues _ undisclosed sites in Connecticut, Florida and Nevada _ have made offers to be host of the pageant. Renneisen said one offer would mean a $692,000 profit, instead of a projected $603,000 loss if it remains in Atlantic City.

The pageant has been synonymous with Atlantic City. It was begun in 1921 as a scheme to lengthen the tourist season by gathering a bevy of bathing beauties on the Boardwalk.

``We're kind of a national icon. No matter where I go, people ask me to move the show there,'' Renneisen said.

He said the decision on where to hold next year's pageant will likely be made within the next few weeks.

Mark Juliano, chairman of the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority, declined to comment on the negotiations. He said both sides had agreed to not discuss details publicly.

``The pageant is incredibly synonymous with Atlantic City, so it's very important to us,'' Juliano said. ``We're confident that the negotiations will be successful.''