BRUNSWICK, Maine — The Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority has voted to end the Brunswick Air Show, which includes the Blue Angels, as the U.S. Navy prepares for an additional $4 billion in pending sequestration cuts.
In preparing for the cuts back in February, the Navy proposed canceling Blue Angels shows in the second half of 2013 to save $20 million, according to a Navy document that lays out a range of potential cuts.
Because Congress couldn’t reach a deal by the March deadline to avoid a package of spending cuts, the Blue Angels show — scheduled Sept. 14-15 — in Brunswick will be canceled along with a dozen other similar shows planned nationwide.
The Navy Office of Information provided The Times Record with an eight-page informational sheet intended to notify the fleet of potential budget impacts.
Proposed “Tier B” cuts are measures that were planned but that the Navy hoped would not need to be implemented if a resolution was in place prior to March 1, a Navy official told The Times Record in February.
Steve Levesque, executive director of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, told The Times Record in February his agency is closely monitoring the situation but “we’ve been notified the schedule is still on as planned.
“We have been in touch with the Blue Angels, and those decisions haven’t been made yet” regarding potential cancellation, Levesque said.
The spectacle draws many performers, but the Blue Angels and U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds are the biggest draw. The Navy’s Blue Angels aerobatics team had performed in air shows at Brunswick Naval Air Station for four decades, drawing as many as 200,000 people to the free events before the installation closed on May 30, 2011.
Three months later, the Blue Angels performed in the 2011 Great State of Maine Air Show at Brunswick Executive Airport, drawing about 25,000 attendees. For the first time, a gate fee was charged, since the Navy was no longer sponsoring the shows or providing the manpower to do them.
The second day of the 2011 weekend show was canceled because of weather. Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority announced later that year that, due mostly to an insurance policy covering event cancellations in case of weather, the show netted just more than $90,000 — $70,000 of which was donated to local nonprofit groups.
The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds were the feature of the 2012 air show in late August, drawing more than 40,000. Levesque said the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority was able to provide around $40,000 to charitable organizations, either through grants it offers from parking proceeds from the show or through opportunities for groups to work at the show and make money from concessions.
“We also rented 650 hotel rooms,” Levesque said, noting local restaurants and gas stations also experience an economic boost from the show.
While the last air show didn’t do as well as hoped for, the show is about more than money, Levesque said.
“We’re generating activity for the community and revenue for charitable organizations,” he said. “Our goal is to break even and maybe even make a little.”
The Blue Angels, which schedule two years in advance, are not scheduled to perform in Brunswick in 2014.
Levesque said MRRA will probably not organize an air show in 2014 and instead may put on a show every other year, as had been done historically.