City Council Tables Special Events Contract Extension

OCEAN CITY — While generally pleased with the successes of the various value-added special events throughout the year, Ocean City officials this week tabled a vote on extending the Tourism Advisory Board’s $300,000 annual contract over concerns the length of the contract could curtail outside-the-box thinking.

Last week, the resort’s Tourism Committee voted to send a favorable recommendation to the Mayor and City Council for extending the TAB’s $300,000 contract to produce the free, value-added special events, such as the popular fireworks displays, laser shows, concerts on the beach and at various venues, Sundaes in the Park and other events through 2017. The favorable recommendation came after a lengthy meeting with TEAM Production’s Bob Rothermel and Jack Hennen, which have produced many of the popular special events in the summer and shoulder seasons.

The committee recommended the contract extension and it appeared to be on a smooth path to approval by the council on Monday before questions were raised about the length of the contract through 2017. While no one on the council disputed the popularity and success of the various special events, some voiced concern the two-year extension could lock the resort into the same events and discourage outside-the-box thinking on new events.

“My concern is if we keep doing the same free event, the novelty wears off,” Councilman Wayne Hartman said. “I’m a firm believer in having these things, but I wonder if we can go to the think tank and maybe come up with something different for 2017. If we commit to this now, we’re adding another year and I would just like to see the potential of a different idea.”

Councilmember Mary Knight explained the longer commitment provided TAB and TEAM Productions with more bargaining power with the vendors. Knight said she didn’t believe there was a danger of becoming stale because new events have consistently been offered each year.

“If I thought the free events were stale, believe me I would be the first to raise my hand,” said Knight, who serves as chair of the Tourism Commission. “But I do think they change every year and get more dynamic.”

Mayor Rick Meehan suggested bringing Rothermel back to the council’s work session next Tuesday so he could make the same presentation the commission saw last week and possibly allay some of the concerns about the third-year extension.

“I think that would be a good idea and we’d have the opportunity to ask him some questions,” he said. “I think he had some new ideas and I think he wanted to develop a couple of new ideas. We know that if you spend money to develop an idea, and you only have one year in which to make back your return, it’s difficult to do that.”

Councilman Dennis Dare, who made a motion to approve the contract extension before further discussion arose, withdrew the motion and added his own concerns. Dare said it was a good idea for the full council to see and hear Rothermel’s presentation before voting to approve the $300,000 contract extension.

“I certainly share some of the concerns,” he said. “I remember we established TAB to look into some of these issues and this is its recommendation and that’s why I’ve supported it, but there may be some other events perhaps we need to take a look at.”