Ocean City Likes Air Show Concept

OCEAN CITY – The potential for an Air Show in Ocean City for the 2008 season increased this week with the Mayor and Council giving unanimous approval for the project to continue into the next stage of planning.

Ocean City Special Events Coordinator John Sullivan came before the Mayor and Council at Tuesday’s work session along with Brian Lilley of B. Lilley, Inc. and his partner in the project Mike McCabe of Air Support, LLC. Together they presented the Mayor and Council with an overview of the event, it’s potential and the requirements needed of the town. Members of the Harrison Group, who have a tentative agreement with the air show to provide accommodations, were also present.

The Air Show proposal began circulating around Ocean City this spring after a private entrepreneur approached the town. With the cancellation of the OC Fly In, Sullivan suggested the proposed Air Show to the Mayor and Council last month.

“Nothing inspires like an air show,” Lilley said, explaining the value of having an air show in Ocean City.

Lilley also noted the wide appeal and family affordable aspects of an air show. “This is the perfect and ideal place to host a beachfront air show,” Lilley said.

The target dates for the show would be June 7-8, a time of year that Lilley and McCabe feel would be ideal for Ocean City. They noted the businesses that could benefit from an increase in crowds at that time of year.

McCabe listed the top three reasons to attend an air show as, the military jet teams, such as the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds, the modern military and the war birds.

Concern arose later in the meeting over the possibility that the event may not secure a jet team. McCabe explained that although they could not guarantee a jet team this year, going ahead with the event without one would still be beneficial to the town and to the future of the event.

“If we had staked the whole reputation of Sunfest on that first year, I don’t think we’d have what we had this weekend,” Councilman Jay Hancock said, pointing out that having the event without a jet team could still be advantageous.

The Harrison Group noted for the record that its deal was contingent upon the jet team.

McCabe explained that the event would require a controlled air space as well as a controlled aerobatic box. The five nautical-mile air space would need to be cleared for a few hours each day. This would also require that the Ocean City Municipal Airport be out of commission for a few hours both days, with the exception of air show-related flights. The aerobatic box, outlined over the water, would require the clearing of that air space and water area for aerial demonstrations.

The areas of 14th to 15th streets would also be needed for air show related exhibits. The event, as well as access to the exhibits, would be free.

As a partner to the air show, Ocean City would be required to provide a variety of things for the event. Ocean City would be required to provide the support of public services, an access controlled area of the beach where food and beverages would be served and a limited exhibit area in the Inlet parking lot, which would require no more than one-third of the parking lot. Lilley also explained that the partnership would require $50,000 in initial funding from the town, with a revenue sharing agreement of 15 percent of gross revenues.

“We want the city to get their money back as quickly as possible,” Lilley said. “This show could become and has the potential to become a significant event.”

Lilley shared with the council his hope that it will become a top-five air show.

Councilman Jim Hall brought up the issue of weather.

“It’s very rare to have a complete washout of an air show weekend,” McCabe said, assuring that weather is rarely a problem.

Mayor Rick Meehan showed support for the concept. “I think it’s a great idea, I think it’s something special and something new for Ocean City,” said Meehan.

Brad Hoffman, producer of the OC Car and Truck Show, also spoke to the merit of the event, but voiced concerns about it conflicting with the car show held in June.

“We just don’t know that two major events that weekend isn’t going to be a problem,” he said, pointing out that the air show would be occurring the same weekend as the car show, an event that has grown significantly over the past seven years.

Hoffman suggested that the town promote the two events together, perhaps as a “wings and wheels” weekend in Ocean City.

“I think the two shows would compliment each other,” Hancock said.

Although the Mayor and Council shared concerns over the possibility of not having a jet team such as the Blue Angels or Thunderbirds, they agreed that they should proceed with the plans for now.

“I don’t like the idea, I love it,” Hall said of the proposal.

The council voted unanimously to approve the request to continue with the plans.