Chris Kilian, president of the HAN board of directors, told a room full of media and volunteers that the Long Beach, Calif., car show that HAN began planning in 2010 has been canceled. He also announced that HAN executive director and CEO Bruce Walter recently tendered his resignation and Mayor Geno Martini of Sparks and Mayor Bob Cashell of Reno have accepted positions on the HAN board of directors.
“Both mayors were appointed by unanimous decision of the current board and each will function and vote as members,” Kilian said as the crowd of volunteers cheered and clapped. “We feel this is a great way to demonstrate our commitment to Reno and Sparks, open lines of communication with each city and to work toward common goals.”
Problems surrounding HAN began in mid-2010 when the organization announced it would add an event in Long Beach to its yearly schedule of events. Even though Walter told the Reno City Council in July that the intent was not to move the event from Reno-Sparks but to hold an additional event to capitalize on Southern California’s significant car culture, the announcement had community leaders worried that HAN would eventually abandon northern Nevada after 25 years.
“We would never leave this area,” Walter said in July. “We love this area. This is home. We are just looking for other funding sources so we can keep strong.”
Though HAN promised not to go elsewhere, Reno City Council members in March began planning for the worst. Councilman Dave Aiazzi on March 23 suggested that the city be prepared to protect its investment should HAN leave Reno.
“They could just move out on a whim if they wanted to,” Aiazzi said, adding he would support another nonprofit organization if one formed to produce an event similar to HAN.
“We have decided to protect ourselves should they pull out,” Aiazzi said, adding that Walter actually moved out of town when HAN decided to add an event in Long Beach to its yearly schedule.
City leaders over the past year have told HAN that adding city council members to its board of directors would show commitment.
“We had asked several months ago to be on the board,” Martini said Tuesday following the announcement that he would serve with Cashell on the board. “I think this shows a commitment from them that they aren’t going anywhere.”
Kilian said the two board seats would be reserved for mayors of Reno and Sparks regardless of who holds the office.
“This was our way of reaching out to both cities and we look forward to working together,” Kilian said. “In light of recent events, we feel the partnership is more important than ever.”
Kilian said the board opted to cancel the Long Beach event for financial reasons and to focus on the event in northern Nevada.
“We have made the determination that this is the best decision for the HAN organization both financially and for the longevity of the event in this community,” she said. “The cancellation of Long Beach has been under review by the board for some time and we do believe it is in the best interest of all involved. All Long Beach participants and sponsors will be given full refunds and also offered the opportunity to participate in the Reno-Sparks or South Lake Tahoe events.”
Tony Marini, managing director of HAN, said 462 participants were signed up for the Long Beach show. The organization had hoped for about 6,000 participants.
Marini and Kilian declined to comment on Walter’s reasons for leaving HAN, but Kilian said Marini will lead the organization along with the board of directors and that no replacement for Walter will be sought at this time.
HAN will hold this year’s annual car show and cruise in Reno and Sparks Aug. 9-14, but will return to the traditional start date on the first Tuesday in August beginning in 2012.