Downtown Resort Events Questioned; North OC Concerns Raised

OCEAN CITY – Councilman Matthew James voiced ongoing concerns of the majority of the city’s free events taking place downtown again this summer.

On Monday evening, the annual series of events, OC Beachlights, schedule came before the Mayor and City Council for approval.

In December, the Tourism Advisory Board (TAB) reviewed a proposal from TEAM Productions that had requested a three-year commitment to fund OC Beachlights, which consists of laser light shows with fireworks on Sundays downtown in the summer; fireworks on the beach downtown on Mondays and Tuesdays; and fireworks at Sundaes in the Park at Northside Park during the summer.

TAB unanimously approved a recommendation to fund $300,000 for TEAM-produced events in 2015 and 2016 and postponed a third year decision. Subsequently, the council approved TAB’s recommendation to approve the two-year contract.

On Monday, Councilman Matthew James, who works with the Carousel Group Hotels, echoed an ongoing concern among uptown businesses over most free events centered around the downtown.

“I have talked to many business owners in North Ocean City and quite a few residents and nobody feels that the funds are being distributed equally,” James said. “From what I understand this has been an issue discussed with TAB for years, and every year they say they will bring attention to it. I don’t think this is being addressed.”

Council Secretary Mary Knight, chair of the Tourism Commission, said a comprehensive review of the city’s free events will be scheduled for the commission in August and September. By that time, survey results will be available to provide input from visitors on the free events.

“We haven’t really looked at our free events comprehensively … hopefully it will help address concerns in the future,” Knight said.

Mayor Rick Meehan pointed out there is a larger population downtown in the summer but there is a shift in population in the off-season when most events move uptown.

“It is a good idea to evaluate all of the events and their numbers but it isn’t an uptown vs. downtown issue, its where the majority of people are. These events are to bring people to Ocean City as a whole, not to take them to one particular part of town,” he said.

The council voted 6-1 with James in opposition to approve the event schedule.