Miramar air show cancellation costs Marine base dearly
SAN DIEGO — The Pentagon’s decision to cancel the air show at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar just one day before it was slated to begin will cost the base between $600,000 and $700,000, though officials aren’t sure yet how big a hit the Marine and family programs that usually benefit from the show’s profits will take.
Last year’s air show netted $1.6 million in profit, which goes back into Marine Corps Community Services programs on base, including family readiness programs, the youth and teen center, and fitness programs, officials said.
The Miramar air show was originally scheduled for Oct. 4-6, but sequestration cuts grounded many military planes and helicopters. The base asked the Pentagon for a waiver to allow them to fly military aircraft at the show, and when it was denied, officials decided the show would go on anyway.
The sequestration version of the air show was to be two days long and feature civilian flying demonstrations and acrobatics, along with military aircraft parked on the tarmac.
And while the show is typically paid for with sponsorship money, appropriated and nonappropriated funds, no appropriated-fund monies were to be used for this year’s event, said Lt. Chad Hill, a Miramar spokesman.
“Our plan was in complete accordance with the guidance set forth by the DOD,” he said.
More than half a million people have attended the three-day show in past years, Hill said, and base officials expected between 75,000 and 100,000 visitors for the shortened event.
“While the show’s going to be a little bit different this year, I tell you it’s going to be a time to remember for you and your family,” Miramar commander Col. John Farnham said in a video message to the San Diego community in July.
Then the government shut down. Base officials continued moving forward with the show, but were told the morning before it was to begin that all nonessential activities — including outreach events like the air show — were not authorized under a shutdown.
Many of the acts were already on base preparing when Farnham held another press conference.
The Pentagon’s restrictions were “more than I had the authority to overcome,” he said. “The timing probably couldn’t be worse … but it is what it is.”
The base immediately began refunding tickets and working on settling contracts with performers, service providers, novelty vendors, sponsors and others, but it will likely take several weeks to determine exactly how all the money will be paid back, Hill said.
Last year, grandstand and box seating alone brought in nearly $300,000, and catering and concessions earned more than $820,000, according to documents provided by the base.
Still, Hill said, the base has seen an “outpouring of support from the community,” and has directed all interested parties to donate to MCCS through its air show sponsorship program.