Partnership Can Only Help Ocean City’s Venue

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It was encouraging news to hear there is a private-public partnership being planned to help with musical bookings at the Performing Arts Center at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center.

The status quo — serving as an added value amenity to existing conventions with a few concerts a year — is simply not enough and was never the sole intent of this new beautiful facility. Providing additional space to existing conventions, such as the cheerleaders, is nice, but for it to become an attraction across the shore and a new jewel in the city’s crown of offerings there must be more.

The city and state did not invest more than $8 million in this operation to simply continue making existing conventions happy. The Performing Arts Center is supposed to be an economic engine and a lure for concerts and special events that previously would not have come here. That’s what will make the beautiful facility reach its full potential.

What happened this week on that front was the Mayor and Council approved a two-year agreement with promoter Bob Rothermel’s company worth about $80,000 with the funds aimed at bringing two concerts between now and the end of June and four concerts during the next fiscal year. The concept is pretty simple and it’s a good one we believe as a starting point.

“The goal here is to maximize our dollars and minimize our expense in promoting the Performing Arts Center and putting on shows at the center,” Mayor Rick Meehan said. “We will also share any losses, although we don’t anticipate that happening, as well as share 50-50 in any of the profits.”

In an interview this week, Convention Center Director Larry Noccolino added, “What this does is increase our buying power from $40,000 to $80,000 in both years. With that added buying power, we can get better talent in our building and that’s what we are looking to do. At the same time, we share the profits and the expenses.”

This is a good step for the city and there’s little downside to this public-private partnership. While city officials are defensive in the face of some concerns the new venue is not living up to expectations, the fact is concerts were a major reason the performing arts center was built, in addition, of course, to assisting current convention bookings.  So far, the concerts booked have not lived up to those advance expectations.

It’s a positive that the city seemed to at least partially recognize that and is looking to address it.

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