Tourism officials say Miss America’s return was a prize for A.C.

    The Miss America competition was still underway on Sunday night when Atlantic City tourism officials declared the city a winner.  Even as contestants paraded onstage in Boardwalk Hall, an email arrived from the Atlantic City Alliance celebrating the city’s showing to the pageant’s national and international audience.

    Some early numbers released on Friday seem to back that up.

    The Alliance today sent another email, this one declaring the Miss America festivities “an early win by Atlantic City’s leadership for the long-term strategy for the seaside resort destination.”

    Some highlights:

    * The pageant broadcast on ABC again broke viewership records, with its best numbers since 2004 and 19 percent higher than last year, up against Sunday Night Football and a new episode of “Breaking Bad.” 

    * The broadcast averaged more than 10 million total viewers in its last hour, also a best since 2004, Miss America officials said.

    * The whole event proved “an image home run,” with national press reports on Miss America and its return to its home city, plenty of social media buzz and an 8-minute opening segment on the Sunday night broadcast that the Alliance says was worth a $1.5 million advertising buy.

    * Specific numbers weren’t included from casinos, hotels and other retailers, but there were quotes from many of the casino properties that hosted Miss America-related events throughout the two weeks leading up to the final competition night.

    To be sure, A.C. was hopping last weekend, though it’s tough to say exactly how much of it was Miss America, as it wasn’t the only event in town. The Atlantic City Seafood Festival drew about 20,000 people, there was a volleyball tournament, and the Atlantic City Triathlon was another draw.

    By my own observation, there was plenty of pageant-related shopping and dining going on. Inside Boardwalk Hall at a small pop-up store, and inside the Pier Shops at Ceasars, Miss America-related merchandise, from glittery hoodies to a USB memory stick in the shape of a crown, were hot. By showtime Sunday evening, shelves were nearly empty. 

    As part of the package that lured Miss America back from Las Vegas, they used Boardwalk Hall for free. Contestants and pageant bigwigs got free and discounted meals, hotel rooms, transportation, and in turn did their parts sharing it all on every available social media platform. 

    From casino bars to the luxury-brand outlet stores, I could see pageant-connected people, everyone sporting a pin or sash or T-shirt declaring their favored contestant, spending money. The Show Us Your Shoes Parade on Saturday night had crowds seven and eight deep, with official estimates upward of 200,000 people.

    Meanwhile, in Miss America-land, the media blitz around the newly-crowned Nina Davuluri continues, with countless stories repeating the part about how the pageant had come back to its new/old home, Atlantic City. Another part of the pageant’s deal makes Miss America the city’s official spokeswoman, and she’ll make at least five appearances in the city over her tenure. 

    Read all the details of the enticements that brought back the beauty queen here.

    The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority estimated a $32 million economic impact to the city from the return of the pageant, parade and related events. Obviously that’s their rosy estimate, but even a fraction of that would make that $7.3 million in state aid look like chump change. 

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.