Promoter Seeking Multi-Year Deal With Ocean City; Commitment Needed To Grow Events

OCEAN CITY – A local promoter is looking add more to the free events offered in Ocean City throughout the year, but he needs a long-term commitment from the city to make it happen.

Last Monday afternoon the Tourism Commission began reviewing this summer’s series of free events as members begin to look to next summer, and if the schedule should be tweaked to provide the best experience for all while in Ocean City.

Earlier this year the Mayor and City Council approved a two-year agreement with Team Productions for the Sunday night laser light shows and Monday and Tuesday night beach fireworks downtown, Sundaes in the Park fireworks at Northside Park on Sunday nights, as well as next week’s Sandfest, featuring sand sculptures and the Octoberfest beach maze and associated events.

The series of events is funded through the Town of Ocean City’s Tourism Advisory Board’s (TAB) yearly $300,000 allocation. In December, TAB reviewed a proposal from TEAM Productions that had requested a three-year commitment to fund the events. TAB unanimously approved a recommendation to fund $300,000 for TEAM-produced events only in 2015 and 2016 and requested TEAM return to TAB in the fall for an update before a third year is agreed upon.

In coming before the Mayor and City Council for the final approval, at first council members were only interested in approving a one-year contract in wanting to keep the events fresh.

However, Bob Rothermel of Team Productions explained a two-year commitment would bring more opportunities to the table as it could invest in the second year without having to work year-to-year. The council agreed, requesting Team Productions return after the season with a year-end report.

The Tourism Commission began a preliminary discussion reviewing estimated attendance at the events throughout the summer but the discussion will be continued next month with overall figures for the entire summer.

“People are enjoying the free events, but we have never really looked at the data to make sure we are spending the money in the right place,” Commission Chair and Councilwoman Mary Knight said.

From 4th of July on, attendance at the laser light show has been incredible, Rothermel stated, which is comparable to last year. However, inclement weather during June had cut the shows short.

“The laser show has become an iconic symbol to the town. It is showing up on aerial photography and productions. I am pleased with the way the laser show and fireworks are working out downtown,” Rothermel said. “In contrast, the fireworks at Northside Park are off the scale. Attendance has more than doubled. Sundaes in the Park are doing well.”

Team Productions is looking to have a multi-year contract with the Town moving into the future to serve as a cost savings measure to add more elements to the series of events.

“We think at Northside Park there needs to be a couple more shows up there with music and fireworks, and I think the market will hold it … you need the whole package up there to make it work,” Rothermel said. “Downtown, our plan is to add more pyro to the laser show next year to give it a little more. We also think adding a music portion to downtown in the June time period and keeping it to the laser and fireworks in July and August. That is our plan for next year if we can come up with a multiple-year agreement.”

Rothermel pointed out this is Team Productions’ fourth year putting on the events and attendance has increased exponentially each year.

“The only way we can start doing more is if we have a long-term agreement, so we can reinvest and have an advertiser come in and pick-up some of those extra costs,” he said.

In looking to add free events in the summer of 2016, Knight acknowledged Mayor Rick Meehan’s opinion to start utilizing the new Caroline Street Comfort Station stage more often by offering musical events.

“That space is underutilized,” Knight said.

Councilman Dennis Dare agreed, adding concerts on the stage would provide younger families with entertainment if they can’t stay on the Boardwalk long enough to watch the laser light and firework shows.

“We built this nice stage on Caroline Street, and with Sundaes in the Park being so successful at Northside Park we should do something a little more like that downtown to address the younger families. I know I can’t take my grandchildren down there because they have to be in bed,” Dare said. “Putting some kind of entertainment on the stage just like Bethany Beach and Rehoboth Beach where they both have band stands on the Boardwalk where they have nightly entertainment.”

At its September meeting, the Tourism Commission will further discuss the proposal from Team Productions before making a recommendation to the full Mayor and City Council.