It’s impossible not to be impressed with the new Ocean City Performing Arts Center inside the Roland E. Powell Convention Center. It’s a beautiful and intimate facility with tremendous visuals, an outstanding sound system highlighted by amazing acoustics and comfortable seating.
Last Saturday’s opening concert featured The Texas Tenors, a country opera group that mixed in a wide variety of songs including Christmas favorites. The best part of the night was the personal interactions the group had with attendees. There was a casual feel to it and a member of the band came out into the audience and even brought one woman on stage with him.
This type of casual, unplugged style event is exactly what will work in this facility. It’s not going to get huge names on a routine basis, but the small venue’s charm can be accentuated by entertainers who are willing to interact with the people while showcasing their talents. The Texas Tenors fit the mold of what will work in the facility and congratulations to the city and promoters for having the group as the opening act.
With the new facility now open and meeting the high expectations that come with a multi-million dollar facility, the focus now turns to the future, specifically who will be coming to Ocean City to entertain in that space. One thing I learned last Saturday night is not to be disappointed if it’s not household names. This venue provides such an embraceable and unique setting that nearly all bookings should arouse interest among the local and visiting community. The facility truly does represent a cultural enhancement.
While quality acts are important, it’s critical to remember the facility will also be used to add value to existing conventions as well, such as the bi-annual cheerleading conventions that fill up Ocean City and provide a major economic shot in the arm to businesses when they need it most — during the offseason.
I hate to be dismissive, but the State Highway Administration’s proposed road diet concept will probably never happen for two reasons. First, and the most significant, is cost, and second is practical shortcomings associated with the fact it will only address a 1.4-mile stretch of the highway.
That’s why narrowing the focus of last week’s presentation from the State Highway Administration to city-wide medians make sense. The question is whether the $2.4 million that was allocated for design of the road diet concept can be allocated instead to median improvements, which city officials are hoping to see in the near term.
The chances of the state approving $25 million for Coastal Highway where safety is only a major concern eight to 10 weeks a year is unlikely anytime soon. It’s part of why the Route 50 Bridge will probably not be reconstructed in my lifetime.
The city is right to at least see if the state would allocate the design funds toward better lighting in the median and engineering a design that prevents pedestrians from ever trying to cross. Whether a decorative fence and some flowers will accomplish this is debatable, but it’s the correct direction.
It seemed only a matter of time before concerns were expressed over the proposed Royal Farms redevelopment at the corner of Route 50 and Friendship Road in Berlin. The plan where the Arby’s is located now is to raze the existing structure and rebuild a combination Royal Farms and Arby’s operation on the site to include multiple fueling stations.
This week it was learned an informal petition expressing traffic and other concerns had been set up at the neighboring Exxon store and received about 150 signatures. The petition was recently turned in at town hall so city officials were aware of the opposition.
The Exxon store’s gripes about increased traffic at the intersection are reasonable to an extent, but they are difficult to accept as genuine. After all, a new and modern Royal Farms being erected within a stone’s throw from the Exxon store will obviously jeopardize the store’s future. Clearly, the owner is fighting for his well-being, but it’s a bit transparent and will likely have no sway over town officials when the matter comes before them in the way of a growth area expansion hearing in the near future.