ROSWELL, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico could soon be home to another major aviation event. The National Championship Air Races in Reno is looking for a new home and Roswell is one of the six finalists.

“It’s probably one of the most popular aviation attractions in the United States,” said William Fitzpatrick, State Aviation Safety and Education Administrator for NMDOT.

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After six decades, the National Championship Air Races is leaving Reno, citing concerns about development near the airfield. When Mike Espiritu heard the news, he immediately gave organizers a call.

“I said well, Roswell’s all in. We’re ready. She goes, ‘ok’ and she goes, well, we’ll get back to you,” said Espiritu, CEO of the Roswell – Chaves County Economic Development Corporation. “And I realized I probably should tell our mayor, chairman of our board, what I just did…but when I shared that with them they were both pretty elated by it because they both understood what the would mean to Southeast New Mexico if not all of New Mexico.”

On Thursday, Roswell was announced as one of the six finalists to be the new home for the national competition. Fitzpatrick said we’ve proven we can host big aviation events and this would take that reputation to new heights. “Being able to host races like this would bring a level of prestige to the state of New Mexico…and really showcase what we have to offer the aviation industry and those who are aviation enthusiasts across the United States and across the world really” said Fitzpatrick.

But can Roswell host an event of this scale? Espiritu said Roswell representatives held meetings and even went to the races in Reno to find out. “After looking at the numbers and analyzing the data like hotel rooms and RV parks, we believe we can,” he said. “Our air center is about four times the one they’re using right now.”

If Roswell is selected, he said they would start pivoting to upgrade infrastructure to meet the needs of the event. According to the Reno Air Racing Association, the event brings in $100 million annually to the region it takes place in. Espiritu said that would help all of southeastern New Mexico take off. “That’s better roads, that’s better parks, better schools. It’s going to be the tide that’s going to lift all the boats not only in Roswell but in Artesia and Carlsbad and Ruidoso,” he said.

Other finalists include Pueblo, Colorado, Casper, Wyoming, Thermal, California, Buckeye, Arizona, and Wendover, Utah. The Reno Air Racing Association is hosting an air show in Reno in 2024 with hopes to hold the entire competition in its new location in 2025.