In a surprise announcement, the organizers of the Miss America (search) pageant told Atlantic City officials Thursday they want to move the 84-year-old contest from the only home it's ever known.

Officials with the pageant, which is in dire financial condition and last year lost its network TV contract, asked the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority (search)'s board of directors to release the Miss America Organization from its contract to hold the annual beauty pageant in Boardwalk Hall (search).

Miss America CEO Art McMaster told the authority's board members the pageant cannot survive if it continues from the hall, a Depression-era landmark that has hosted the annual event since 1940.

The authority went behind closed doors to make a decision.

The convention authority already gives Miss America a $720,000 annual subsidy, but McMaster said the pageant still operates at a $500,000 loss each time it holds the event in the hall because of high production costs for the telecast itself.

McMaster said he had no destination in mind for the pageant, but said the high cost of operating in Atlantic City meant a drain on the organization that would put it out of operation.