Resort Considers Paid Parking At Convention Center

OCEAN CITY — An economic
impact study says that the proposed performing arts center in the Roland E.
Powell Convention Center could generate six figure revenues annually and millions
in direct and indirect spending to the local economy.

However, the same study
also said the town could get six figure revenues from charging users to park in
the convention center lot as well.

Susan Sieger, of
Crossroads Consulting Group in Tampa, Fla., presented both the economic impact
study for phase two of the convention center expansion, ie, the performing arts
center, on Tuesday at City Hall.  In
addition, upon the Mayor and Council’s request, she also presented findings on
a feasibility study in relation to paid parking at the convention center.

“We spent a lot of time
speaking with stakeholders or current users of the building, promoters who do
comedy shows and represent other music artists, and we looked closely at what
other comparable facilities are doing and tried to determine what the economic
impacts would look like,” said Sieger.

Sieger’s study estimated
that the performing arts center will be more multi-purpose in nature, and not
just to attract traditional theatrical or musical acts, thus making the room
much more profitable.

“It is now designed to
be accessible by various groups, not just concerts,” said Sieger. “We estimate
that 61-73 shows a year could bring in between 45,000 and 55,000 new attendees,
and somewhere between $200,000 and $240,000 positive to your bottom line

In addition, the
economic impact for the local community would be substantial, as Sieger
estimated that between $2.2 million and $2.6 million to be spent in Ocean City
annually with the presence of the performing arts center, as well as more than
a half a million dollars in new tax revenues.

Sieger said that because
of Ocean City’s geographic location, many music or comedy acts would come to
the resort on their way from one large market to another.

“It will help the early
parts of the week, like Tuesday and Wednesday for instance,” said Sieger, “as
many of the musical acts will see the building as a good stopover in between
the big markets.”

Town officials believe
that building the early parts of the week and the shoulder seasons are the two
most crucial components in future success for the building, and Convention
Center Director Rick Hamilton believes that both phase 1 and phase 2 of the
expansion will achieve those goals.

“If you look at the
building’s entrance, it’s almost as if it was designed to have this 1,200-seat
auditorium put exactly where we are planning to put it,” said Hamilton. “We’ve
already got the ticketing center, bathrooms and a separate area so people can
come and see a show, while people in the rest of the building don’t have their
event disturbed.”

Sieger estimated that
for every dollar spent in Ocean City, it would bring the state a return of

The other part of the
study that Sieger warned the council to be “flexible and careful” moving
forward was the possibility of the town choosing to charge for event parking at
the convention center.

The study showed that up
to $566,000 could be made annually from paid parking for events, but Sieger
said that the town should tread lightly while considering the change.

“You’ve never charged
for parking before at the convention center so some people may think of this as
a new user tax, and that will turn off some of the building’s current
customers, but if you are flexible and consistent with policy, it is profitable
and it is no different than what many other comparable buildings are doing,”
Sieger said.

Currently, both Myrtle
Beach and Virginia Beach do not charge for convention center parking, but
Sieger said that Myrtle Beach is considering a $3 a car fee.