BERLIN – The wildly popular Delmarva Bike Week, which has grown each year since the inaugural event in 2001 and now attracts over 100,000 motorcycle enthusiasts from all over the country, will return to the resort area next fall as planned, but it now appears the event’s home for the last five years, Ocean Downs Racetrack near Berlin, will not be part of the equation.
Delmarva Bike Week organizers this week confirmed Ocean Downs would not be the official headquarters for the event this year as it has been for the last five years. Instead, the event will likely be held at several venues across Delmarva including the Harley-Davidson stores in Berlin and Seaford, Del. from Sept. 11-16.
Harley-Davidson of Ocean City spokeswoman Benet McCormick confirmed on Tuesday Ocean Downs will not be part of the plan for Bike Week this year.
“We won’t be having just one central location this year,” she said. “We’re expanding the event to different venues at multiple locations. We won’t be at the racetrack at all.”
McCormick said the event organizers, B-Line Inc., have not received a contract from Ocean Downs as of yet and are now planning to change the format of the annual motorcycle event as a contingency plan. The tentative plan calls for the event to be spread over several locations with as many as four sites spread across the area.
“We usually have a contract with them by January each year, but we don’t have any agreement with them as of now,” she said. “We have to keep moving forward.”
McCormick said the decision was based largely on input from the thousands of motorcyclists who attend the event year after year. Other factors were considered including the strain on traffic on the vicinity of the racetrack, but it essentially boiled down to a preference among the participants to move the event around.
“The attendees have been asking to spend more time riding rather than spend all of their time at the track,” she said. “The benefits of multiple locations include easier traffic flow for locals as well as visitors, more things happening for the visitors, more opportunities for local businesses to support the event and more opportunities to ride.”
However, on Wednesday, Ocean City Hotel/Motel/Restaurant Association Director Susan Jones delivered a rather dire message about Bike Week and Ocean Downs to members of the resort’s Economic Development Committee that appeared to run counter to the reasons for the departure from the track provided by the event organizers.
“Bike Week has been kicked out of its home in Ocean Downs, and if it doesn’t do well this year, it might not be back in 2009,” she said. “We need to put our collective heads together to figure out ways to keep this event.”
In any case, Ocean Downs owner William Rickman said later on Wednesday Ocean Downs was “not ending its association with Bike Week” and that any issues with holding the event at the track were tied to the event’s organizers and not the venue. Rickman said the organizers of Bike Week have problems with insurance and liability, and if the insurance problem is resolved, the event will still be held at Ocean Downs.