OCEAN CITY – At a work session of the Mayor and Council this week, the issue of soliciting more sponsorship for town events arose, with several officials arguing for an increase in sponsorship to alleviate tax burdens.
The issue arose during a presentation by Tom Shuster, director of Recreation and Parks, as he presented the 2009 Special Events Schedule. Councilwoman Margaret Pillas suggested alleviating the high costs of fireworks displays by having them sponsored.
Shuster pointed out that while sponsorship is a promising endeavor, most companies prefer to sponsor an entire event or fixed aspects of the event such as entertainment, where their name can clearly be displayed.
“That is not so much the case in the event of fireworks,” Shuster said.
Shuster pointed out that while sponsorship funding has not been fully utilized, the city has been expanding on its current list of sponsors. Comcast contributed money to this year’s Sunfest through sponsorship of the entertainment tent. “So we have moved in that direction,” Shuster said.
Despite an increase in sponsorship among special events, Councilman Jay Hancock noted that it could always be expanded.
“I think there’s money out there that we could tap,” Hancock said, suggesting several big name sponsors, such as Comcast, Verizon and M&T Bank that could be solicited.
According to Hancock, Verizon sponsored Virginia Beach’s version of the Winterfest of Lights this year.
“If Verizon can sponsor the bucks in Virginia Beach, maybe they could sponsor the bucks here as well,” he said. “I think the perception is Ocean City is going to pay for this stuff so why bother sponsor it.”
Hancock pointed out that while Recreation and Parks does a tremendous job with special events, more sponsorship solicitation could occur.
“I just think that there’s opportunity out there to save the taxpayers some big bucks,” he said.
Council President Joe Mitrecic came to Shuster’s defense.
“Tom in your defense there is a bit of a staffing issue,” said Mitrecic, adding the significant local sponsorship that is brought in. “The list of small donors is really quite astounding and we shouldn’t lose sight of that.”
Although the staff works to draw in sponsorship, there is only so much that the staff can handle.
“All of us do sponsorship and we always have. We work the entire area in the entire range,” Shuster said.
Shuster agreed to examine the issue further and continue with the town’s current efforts in soliciting sponsorship.