RENO — Nevada's tourism commission approved a $600,000 sponsorship Thursday of Reno's National Championship Air Races that organizers needed to meet soaring insurance costs and continue the annual event in September after a mass-casualty crash last year.
The funding — the state's biggest single sponsorship in a decade — allows the Reno Air Racing Association to meet a Sept. 1 deadline for the final payment on the premium that jumped from $300,000 to $2 million after the crash on the edge of the grandstand that killed 11 and injured 70 at Reno-Stead Airport.
"The National Championship Air Races is an important event, not only for northern Nevada but for the entire state, creating significant economic impact and worldwide exposure for the region," said Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, who chairs the tourism commission.
Claudia Vecchio, director of the Nevada Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, said details of the sponsorship will be worked out in the weeks ahead.
"It's critical to the commission on tourism that this sponsorship provides a significant return on investment," she said.
The $600,000, one-year sponsorship is the state's biggest of its kind in at least 10 years, said Chris Moran, a tourism commission spokeswoman. That's a significant amount, given the agency's overall annual budget of $14 million. She said the money will be drawn from the $5 million share budgeted for marketing and advertising for fiscal year 2013.
Mike Houghton, president and CEO of the Reno Air Racing Association, said the group was overwhelmed and humbled by the support from the state as well as local governments, community and business leaders.
"We are so proud to be able to announce that we have achieved the funding requirement necessary to hold what will surely be our most emotional and highly anticipated event in our 49-year-history," he said.
The popularity of the air races has grown significantly during the past decade.