OCEAN CITY – Northside Park’s facilities will be expanded with temporary equipment to accommodate an increase in youth sports tournaments planned for the region.
During Tuesday’s Mayor and City Council work session, Tourism Director Donna Abbott came before the council representing the Tourism Advisory Board (TAB) to pass forward the board’s recommendation in providing funding for North Atlantic Sports to purchase temporary fencing and mounds for use in youth baseball tournaments at Northside Park.
The request came before the Recreation and Parks Commission in October from Robert “Moose” Holland of North Atlantic Sports, who has been running softball tournaments in Ocean City for over 30 years, and is now a district vice president for United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA).
At that time Holland explained in order to attract youth baseball tournaments, fields have to be a certain size, and requested of the commission to consider up to $21,000 for temporary fencing and mounds. His goal is to bring 8- to 18-year-old players during an April to May timeframe, and Holland had proposed a schedule of baseball and fast pitch tournaments to be held at Northside Park in 2014 on hand.
Wicomico County partnered with Ocean City to host the USSSA Girls World Series held last July, which reportedly filled 13,000 hotel rooms on the lower shore and although the event cost Wicomico County $100,000 to acquire, it created an economic impact of about $9 million overall.
Recreation and Parks Director Tom Shuster recognized the current demand for facilities to host sports tournaments and Ocean City is currently working to position the resort within sports marketing to attract additional events.
“If we allow him to use the fields with the temporary fencing and the mounds, it would work … we could better align ourselves to use these weekends to the fullest,” Shuster said at that time.
Holland suggested he meet with TAB to seek financial assistance in promoting the baseball and softball tournaments in Ocean City. The town allocates TAB $300,000 a year to promote and hold events in Ocean City.
The Recreation and Parks Commission was in consensus to have Holland meet with TAB to seek funding prior to presenting the request to the full Mayor and City Council.
At its December 2013 meeting, TAB unanimously approved the request from North Atlantic Sports for the purchase of temporary fencing and mounds to use at tournaments North Atlantic Sports is bringing to Northside Park. Funds are available in the Fiscal Year 2014 TAB allocation to cover the $21,000 request.
“The Recreation and Parks Commission fully supported this,” Commission Chair Councilman Joe Mitrecic said as he made a motion to approve the funding.
Councilwoman Margaret Pillas questioned why the request is not included as a line item in the Recreation and Parks Department budget rather than coming out of TABs budget, which is meant to assist in bringing new events to Ocean City.
“We thought this would be an investment … and it would benefit the sports promoter, so we thought the request should be reviewed and funded by TAB since they are a direct beneficiary of the tournaments’ return in investment,” Shuster said.
Mitrecic added the investment would expand Ocean City’s sports tourism base.
“Bringing these Little League and female softball games to town in turn brings a tremendous amount of teams, which in turn turns into room nights and dinners in restaurants,” he said.
The council voted 6-0, with Council Secretary Mary Knight absent, to grant the request.