So. Amidst Nevada's worst unemployment numbers in decades, a struggling tourism economy, and the highest unemployment rate in the nation, the board of Hot August Nights has decided it would be a great idea if they held a much larger event 540 miles away in a picturesque waterfront setting in Long Beach one week before holding the event here, holding onto a theory that Hot August Nights fans would follow the event across the country like a bunch of diehard Grateful Dead fans.
While reassuring local city officials that everything is peachy king and they don't plan to move the event out of the Reno location, the board and CEO fail to mention the potential negative impacts this will have on our local economy.
According to RSCVA tourism figures, about 48% of tourists to Washoe County come from California. I don't know Hot August Night's specific tourist statistics, but for the sake of my point let's assume at least 25% of the 800,000+ visitors to Reno during Hot August nights are from California. That's not an unreasonable assumption.
So now, Hot August Nights has presented everyone in California with a newer, more exciting and fresh event situated right on the oceanfront boardwalk, capitalizing on the whole 1950's/60's Annette/Frankie California Beach genre only one week before the event in Reno. Let's say you live in the Bay Area. Are you going to drive 6.5 hours down the PCH to Long Beach to check out the new venue in a nice cool ocean breeze setting, or are you going to instead skip it and drive 4 hours to Reno's 100 degree temps, where the same event has been happening for 20+ years? What if you couldn't take two weeks out of your life to do both events?
Hot August Nights has handed California an event that most Californians interested in old cars probably travel to Reno to attend.
In this article, CEO Bruce Walters says he is 'bringing it home to Southern California, where the car culture is exceptionally huge," and that "Having the Pacific, the proximity of all the events downtown, Shoreline Drive and the marina parks. It represents an entirely new dynamic for this event. We expect to draw more people over those four days than we do in Reno, but with a different twist." The article goes on to say that HAN has "a lease to host the event here (in Long Beach) through at least 2016, Walter said his organization is opening an office with staff on East Ocean Boulevard."
And I doubt it was Hot August Nights' intention, but mentioning that the event is opening in Long Beach has started a flurry of posts in car-lover forums that the event has 'moved' to Long Beach. Here's another article that says 'Hot August Nights born and raised for the last 23 years in Reno, Nev., will make its new home in Long Beach and celebrate its 25th anniversary Aug. 3-6, 2011.' Sure, the press got it wrong and the event is not actually 'moving', but that seems to be the public perception I am seeing online, so the damage is already being done.
Maybe I'm wrong in thinking that three Hot August Nights events spanning two weeks and sharing the same demographic might possibly split the tourists for this event in half . Maybe I'm wrong in thinking that California tourists which attend HAN in Reno won't find the Southern California event more appealing and decide to switch it up a bit. It's not like some competitor of HAN is starting up their own car event in So Cal...this IS Hot August Nights, a brand which Reno helped shape over the past 20 years, a brand that has extreme name recognition amongst car lovers, and a brand that has now given Nevada's largest tourist feeder market a more enticing new event to check out, one week before Reno's.
Then I think maybe I am not giving Hot August Nights fans enough credit. Maybe California fans of the event will stay true to the roots of the event in Reno, and flip their nose at the thought of traveling to Long Beach for the event instead. Maybe they WILL all cruise across California and Nevada in a giant convey of Beach Boy bliss. Maybe?
But do I think that hundreds of thousands of Hot August Nights fans will first drive to Long Beach and party there for a week, then travel up to Tahoe, then to Reno and then back to the Bay Area? Hell no. I would be much more comfortable with this idea had HAN decided to hold a second event more than 500 miles away and at a different time during the year than one week before the event in Reno. Maybe Florida? Or maybe hold the event in Reno FIRST.
With an at-least 6 year option to use most of Long Beach's ocean front property for Hot August Nights, HAN is serious about plating its seed in Southern California.
According to Willie Davidson via News 4, who originally created the event, he is pretty fumed at the current board. He suggested why not start the event in Reno and end in Long Beach?
I don't think Hot August Nights will leave Reno completely, but considering this new setup makes Reno the last stop in a three-city tour, over time it could easily become the least emphasized of the three events.