OC BikeFest’s Return Supported By Council

OCEAN CITY – OC BikeFest received the green light this week from the Mayor and City Council for a second installment next year.

OC BikeFest was introduced to Ocean City and its visitors last September. Unfortunately, it started off with a tornado that swept through town on the event’s first day, which was followed with a weekend full of rain.

Despite BikeFest’s unfortunate luck with Mother Nature for its first appearance, event organizer Cliff Sutherland came before the Mayor and City Council this week to save dates for the event in the next two years, Sept. 13-16, 2012 and Sept. 12-15, 2013.

When first proposed, the majority of the City Council was apprehensive on having OC BikeFest come to town since it was proposed to run only a week before Ocean City’s main event, Sunfest, and on the same grounds in the Inlet but the changeover between ended up running smoothly.

“All of the departments throughout the town said that the event organizer and his staff worked very well with the town and the staff does recommend approval,” Private Events Coordinator Lisa Mitchell said.

Along with Sutherland’s request for the dates, he asked if the city would re-consider reimbursements. He explained that, according to his memory, the town’s estimated cost was $135,000 for services, with a $50,000 credit. At the time he had agreed to reimburse Ocean City $85,000, which was paid.

Once the event took place, the total cost came to $83,000. Sutherland said that with the $50,000 credit the reimbursement should have only been for the difference in costs which was around $33,000.

“If we might receive some consideration in actually over paying … we are looking for some kind of credit and lowering of what the estimate might be,” Sutherland said.

Mayor Rick Meehan responded that according to his notes the costs calculated by the city were $83,190, and Sutherland had agreed to an $85,000 reimbursement, which would only reflect a difference of $1,800.

“We were supposed to get a $50,000 credit,” Sutherland said. “I’m pretty confident if you look at the minutes that would still reflect that.”

The second BikeFest plans to extend its grounds to Jolly Roger Amusement Park and the Roland E. Powell Convention Center. Sutherland said that the lease with Jolly Roger has already been signed and as of earlier this week the contract with the convention center was coming to a close.

Councilman Brent Ashley asked Sutherland on how big he intends OC BikeFest to get.

“As long as there is a head on every bed, any more than that becomes an issue … those are the only three venues that we want to do,” Sutherland said.

Sutherland added that the amount of bikers or disturbances in town can’t all be blamed on BikeFest, but some fingers need to start being pointed at the “pop-ups” that keep showing up around town. Sutherland referenced Bike Week participants, permitted or not, who are using parking lots or empty spaced around town to host vendors.

“As long as that happens, costs associated with police and whatever else shouldn’t be associated with us,” Sutherland said. “If it gets too big, we have to go away because everybody is going to be so upset it won’t work for anybody, that’s just the way it works.”

Councilwoman Mary Knight said she visited BikeFest most of the weekend and thoroughly enjoyed it.

“I thought the entertainment was phenomenal,” she said. “I thought it was very gentlemanly of you on Sunday to not charge anybody to come in.”

Sunday was originally planned to be open as a family day with a charge of $8 but since the wind was heavy some motorcycle stunt team acts just couldn’t be conducted.

Knight said that the only complaint that she received was the lack of enough food vendors, and Sutherland responded there were issues with food vendors due to the weather and inspections.

Knight made the motion to approve the dates of BikeFest in the future with a caveat that research will be conducted on council minutes regarding the $50,000 credit.

Council President Jim Hall originally voted against BikeFest but changed his mind this time around.

“You have certainly managed it well and it was received well, even though you did get bad weather,” he said. “We will get you an answer on the money. We will listen to the transcripts and we will settle up accordingly.”

The council voted unanimously to approve BikeFest dates in 2012 and 2013, with Council Secretary Lloyd Martin absent.

Future BikeFest attendance is estimated at around 30,000, according to Sutherland.

Last year, attendance fell short of its goal due to weather but still came in strong as a first-year event with about 14,000 attendees, which does not included those who attended for free on Sunday.

After the vote, Councilman Joe Hall suggested the city look into the proliferation of non-sanctioned events piggybacking off of larger events, such as OC BikeFest.

“The little events in the parking lots have happened on several different events…because some get permits and some just happen,” he said.