OCEAN CITY – One day after Ocean City hosted opening ceremonies for the event, city officials approved funding this week to retain the USSSA Girls World Series in Ocean City next year.
On Tuesday afternoon, Ocean City Tourism and Marketing Director Donna Abbott came before the Mayor and City Council to request the use of Tourism Advisory Board funding to support Ocean City’s share of the bid fee for the 2015 United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) Girls World Series.
According to Abbott, in a poll of TAB members taken on Tuesday, July 22, the majority of members responded, all with a favorable vote to fund Ocean City’s estimated share of the bid fee for the USSSA Girls World Series, which is a three-week series of girls’ softball tournaments held in Wicomico County and Ocean City.
Per the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Town of Ocean City and Wicomico County, funding required to obtain events such as this shall be shared by both parties in proportion to the hotel rooms booked within each jurisdiction. The current funding ratio is 65 percent Wicomico County and 35 percent Ocean City.
Last year’s series resulted in 3,800 room nights in Ocean City, resulting in Ocean City’s portion of the bid fee being an estimated $34,650. Following the allocation for Fiscal Year 2015, TAB’s account stands at $83,000 with $300,000 in annual funding received from the town.
The third week of the 2014 USSSA Softball World Series kicked off in Ocean City on Monday afternoon. At the ceremony alone, there were 160 teams from 12 states. In all, there will be 395 teams participating over the three-week period.
“We will have a final tabulation of how many room nights were garnered in Ocean City in a few weeks,” Abbott said of this year’s event.
Abbott added she had just found out the day prior Wicomico County received a state grant from last year’s tournament, which Ocean City will be receiving about $16,000 of, and asked the council to consider replacing TAB’s funding with the portion of the grant.
Councilwoman Mary Knight pointed out 3,800 hotel rooms at about the average rate of $150 a night last year comes to $570,000 in new revenue. She furthered the return in investment is far beyond what the town allocates in support, such as the bid fee and $10,000 initial operating budget included in the MOU.
The $10,000 initial operating budget contributed by the town and Wicomico County went toward marketing materials and the creation of a website to promote the event, Abbott stated.
“That was the initial expense and then there are funds that must be expended to either obtain or retain these events,” Abbott said. “Every jurisdiction across the land is trying to get events such as this in their areas. Sports tourism is definitely here to stay. The economic impact of last year’s event alone was $8.9 million. We are hoping to get a new economic indicator for events like this that I believe is being prepared now by the state’s Sports Marketing Office so we can apply this to future events …”
Councilman Brent Ashley agreed with Knight the USSSA Girls World Series is well worth the investment.
“It is not always the expense of these programs but it is the return that really counts. I think it is a terrific return, so I am all for it,” he said.
Councilman Joe Mitrecic attended the opening ceremony at the Inlet Parking Lot on Monday.
“These are not just young women showing up for games. There are families that are here spending the week. A pizza merchant on the Boardwalk sold 250 pizzas last night to this group while they were there,” he said. “We have had a discussion and we were concerned about the makeup of our visitors and this is certainly the type of visitors we want here in Ocean City, so it is the right thing to do.”
The council voted unanimously to approve the request and partially replace TAB’s allocation with the $16,280 in grant funds received.