OCEAN CITY – The resort’s financial contribution toward OC BikeFest may be coming to a sunset as consensus grows over how focus should be shifted toward assisting new events.
Tourism Advisory Board (TAB) Chairman Greg Shockley requested the Mayor and City Council on Tuesday afternoon approve $35,000 to support funding of OC BikeFest 2014 to be held in Ocean City Sept. 11-14.
When the Tourism Commission was abolished in 2010, TAB was formed and funded $300,000 by the city to spend on new events in Ocean City. Since then, the Tourism Commission was re-established in 2012 but TAB has remained.
According to Ocean City Tourism and Marketing Director Donna Abbott, the new owner of BikeFest, Kathy Michael, has requested funding in the amount of $35,000 to assist with marketing and security for the 2014 event. TAB approved the funding request with the understanding that there could be a reduced sliding scale for any future requests given this event has received funding the past few years and was able to make a profit last year.
“The tourism business community is 100 percent behind this event as it is an economic generator,” Shockley said.
This will be the fourth year of OC BikeFest, and according to Michael, the event results have been positive. The number of “heads in beds” has increased each year at mid-season rates, and according to restaurants/bars in contract with the event, some have experienced record sales during that week.
Michael furthers, the four-day motorcycle event will be held at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center and the Inlet parking lot with a focus on attracting consumers to Ocean City for extended stays. The experiences include national music acts, stunt teams and a variety of vendors. Admission will be charged at the Inlet for the musical acts.
The average attendee is 52 years of age and has an annual income of $92,000, according to Michael. Nationally, motorcyclists spend more money on consumables because they typically don’t have space to carry much on their motorcycles. The Boardwalk merchants have been pleased with the foot traffic as well, according to Michael and Shockley.
In 2013, estimated attendance was 125,000, which was an increase over 2012. OC Bikefest expects to increase attendance to 150,000, bringing in excess of $17 million to Ocean City in merchant revenue, as well as generating over 35,000 room nights plus rental units.
The event’s total budget is $700,000, plus $70,000 of in-kind services provided by the city, such as police assistance. Out of the total, $35,000 is funded by TAB, $200,000 by the applicant and $150,000 by sponsors.
“My understanding is TAB is for bringing new events to town,” Councilwoman Margaret Pillas said, as she questioned the time limit of TAB’s funding toward reoccurring events such as BikeFest.
“There have been discussions all along about how long we support an event but one of the reasons we decided to stay with this event was the ownership change … but at some point, yes, it needs to come to another event,” Shockley said.
Pillas asked for dialogue from TAB regarding how long certain events will receive funding annually.
“From my perspective, we allocated this money to TAB to make their own decisions, and I agree that it [BikeFest] is a very important event for the community. If TAB is satisfied with this, then it is okay with me,” said Councilman Brent Ashley as he made a motion to approve the request.
Upon Pillas’s request, Ashley amended the motion to include TAB bringing forward dialogue regarding her concern of how long TAB funding is to be allocated toward reoccurring events. The council voted unanimously to approve.