Air show brings economic infusion

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Air show brings economic infusionWhile the Blue Angels raised spirits among the massive audiences that turned out for the China Lake Air Show, the hundreds of performers and crew members, and thousands of visitors, left a positive impact on our local economy by spending an estimated $750,000 during the event.

“I don’t know when we have ever seen a weekend with this kind of positive impact on the Indian Wells Valley,” said Dan Spurgeon, manager of SpringHill Suites and Hampton Inn, as well as member of the IWV Economic Development Corp.

Naval Air Weapons Station Commanding Officer Capt. Paul Dale and Executive Officer Cmdr. Matt Conliffe estimated that 50,000 spectators attended the event over the course of the weekend. The pair added that the NAWS team had no significant safety or security concerns during the show.

Residents and visitors said that traffic flow and parking went much better than expected, considering the large crowd.

Before and after the show, restaurants were packed with diners. “We drove around on Saturday looking for a place to eat, and every restaurant and parking lot was full,” said Mayor Peggy Breeden.

“I went to the show on Saturday, but on Sunday I went to work and the streets were absolutely empty. I thought, ‘I bet I know where everyone is!’”

A report released by a national hospitality agency reports that local occupancy was at 85 percent during the weekend — up from 48-49 percent in the weeks leading up to the event and up from about 45 percent on the same weekend last year.

Spurgeon said that his hotels sold out last November, but some of the smaller hotels were selling rooms for more than $400 per night in the days leading up to the show.

“Based on the occupancy numbers, and the available rooms in Ridgecrest, we sold about 900 hotel rooms that weekend. And by most reports you had three to four people in each room,” said Spurgeon.

That does not take into account the countless more who dry camped, stayed in RV parks and crashed with local family members and friends.

Several hundred hotel rooms were full for the better part of the week, hosting the pilots, support crews and staff for the numerous aerial performers.

“On hotels alone, this event brought $250,000 into our market — and that’s a fairly conservative estimate,” said Spurgeon. Market multipliers indicate that for $1 spent on a hotel, guests spend another $2 on food, fuel and other amenities.

“One of the other positive results we saw was that the air show put the Indian Wells Valley on the map for a whole new traveling audience,” said Spurgeon. “A lot of these people will be coming back here now.”

Spurgeon said that he hopes to see a return of the Blue Angels in the near future.

For the Navy officials who produced the show, the impetus for the event is to thank the community and remind citizens of the incredible capabilities our uniformed military employ to protect us.

“We are humbled and honored by the incredible attendance,” said Dale. “This air show was for you, the community. It was our way of saying thank you for the tremendous support you give us every day.

“We take pride in the significant, ongoing relationship we share with the surrounding communities in the Indian Wells Valley.

“This community event was one small way of saying ‘thank you’ for your constant support of the base and our personnel. We are privileged to have called Ridgecrest and the Indian Wells Valley home for nearly 75 years, and we look forward to being here for many more.

“Overall, the show was an extremely successful event, producing a tremendous amount of community outreach and a better understanding of the superb work the military and civilian personnel across NAWS China Lake Installation and the Department of Defense perform each and every day. We hope that you enjoyed the show as much as we enjoyed bringing it to you.”

“I know it’s a huge impact on the Navy, but so well worth it,” said Breeden. “We would love to have the Blue Angels back any time!”

“We do not expect another airshow next year,” said Dale. However, China Lake is reportedly in consideration for a return of the Blue Angels sooner than the 24-year gap between its last two visits, he said.

“The overwhelming support and attendance at the recent air show, coupled with the continued community support for the installation and the Navy’s mission, have been noted and will possibly influence decisions in circles that will put NAWS China Lake on the map for a future air show.”

Pictured: Shown are some of the estimated 50,000 spectators who turned out on Saturday and Sunday for the China Lake Air Show — which featured a captivating performance by the Blue Angels. -- Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2017-03-24