Miss USA passes on Overland Park

San Antonio attracts nationally televised pageant with $500,000 bid

— The Alamo City will play host to the Miss USA 2003 pageant, which will be televised nationally March 24 on NBC, officials announced Monday.

City leaders approved a $500,000 payment to lure the three-week production, which had been staged for the past two years in Gary, Ind. In addition, local hotels are contributing hundreds of free or discounted rooms.

The winner will go on to compete in the Miss Universe pageant in May in Panama City, Panama.

"There won't be a dull moment," reigning Miss USA Shauntay Hinton said of the Miss USA event. "Every appearance we do, hundreds and hundreds of people come out."

The Miss Universe Organization, co-owned by New York real-estate magnate Donald Trump and NBC, also had considered Branson, Mo., and Overland Park, Kan.

San Antonio Mayor Ed Garza helped negotiate the deal with Trump and pageant officials.

"We're happy to have the opportunity to showcase our city," he said.

Garza said the city's $500,000 outlay was seed money that would yield at least $2 million in valuable television exposure for San Antonio's important tourism industry.

"San Antonio doesn't need to be put on the map -- it's already on the map," said Hinton, who will be in the city for the entire pageant period before crowning her successor. "We'll just put it on the map more."

Gary Mayor Scott King said last month his city chose to not exercise its option to hold the pageant for a third year under its contract with Trump because the money involved could be better used to spur economic development.

Lalosa Dent Burns, a spokeswoman for King, said Monday that Gary, a struggling steel town in search of a new identity, has not recouped the $3.4 million in city expenditures to be the pageant's host.

"We're not gaining dollars as expected, as projected," said Burns, who wouldn't put a figure on the city's return on its investment. "We didn't break even, that's for sure."

Paula Shugart, Miss Universe president, said NBC wanted a pageant site that was visually appealing and diverse enough to supply a variety of locales for filming.

"It would be hard to find a better site to launch our new partnership with NBC," Shugart said.

NBC joined Trump in the equal partnership in September, ending the pageant's 51-year relationship with CBS.

Shugart said the network change will include a revamped format that will "bring a fresh perspective and reinvent the live show."

The Gurin Co., best known for producing the NBC game show "Weakest Link", has been hired to oversee the pageant production.

Miss Universe spokeswoman Mary Hilliard McMillan said the pageant drew 10 million to 11 million domestic television viewers.


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