Two years ago, the Twin Falls air show committee organized a two-day air show that featured the U.S. Navy’s dynamic Blue Angels, fighter jets known for skillful maneuvers. The event was deemed a success, but the event didn’t go as planned fiscally-speaking and taxpayers were left holding the bag. Still, the committee is going to try it again this year.
Twin Falls City and Twin Falls County, two local government entities that co-own the regional airport, decided to split the final bill for show, a deficit of $21,513.
Finishing the event in the red was attributed to poor planning on the part of the airport commission. In 2009, more than 25,000 residents attended the event. Of those 25,000, somewhere around 17,000 paid, while the other 8,000 were given free entry into the event due to veteran or military servicemen status.
In total, organizers planned a budget of $445,000. The event ended up costing about $466,000.
The City Council declined to bring the air show back last year because members felt that organizers couldn’t raise enough money to pay for it in the economic conditions of the time.
Will Keazle is a member of the Twin Falls City Council and the liaison to the airport advisory board. Keezle told the Twin Falls Times-News this week that he has faith in the board and that the event provides an economic bump for the Magic Valley. “They are a huge draw,” Kezele said. “They get people from all over the West to come to the community.”
Another member of the City Council, state Sen. Lee Heider, a Republican, says that air show organizers will better manage ticket sales and won’t give as many free entries to the event. “I think most of the way we lost money last time was an accounting problem,” said Heider. “We let too many people in free.”
In addition to cutting back on free tickets, Heider said, the air show committee will also look at reducing the number of performers it brings in, which can typically cost thousands of dollars per act. “We may not bring as many of those[performers],” he explained, adding that the marquee act will still draw people to the event. “With the Blue Angels coming, you really don’t need a lot those other performers. But it’s nice to have some fun airplanes.”
Additional scrutiny will be given to the money coming in and going out. “We really made a lot of money, but part of it is getting contributions from sponsors prior to the air show and knowing that we can cover the costs it, and then watching the expenses as well,” said Heider. “I think we can do it more cost-effectively and I think we can watch our expenses and not go into the red.”
The air show committee has until July to find sponsors and money for the event.