Beach Soccer Event OK’d Despite Air Show Conflict

OCEAN CITY — The city approved the renewal of a popular special event on the beach in June, but not before a spirited discussion about its potential conflict with the O.C. Air Show.

The Mayor and Council had before them on Tuesday a request to approve the Beach 5 Sand Soccer Tournament for Saturday and Sunday, June 18-19, on the beach adjacent to the Boardwalk from Dorchester Street to 4th Street. The event includes roughly 30 sand soccer fields spread out over several blocks for a tournament that runs from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day.

The request for approval came during the council’s consent agenda, which is typically reserved for ongoing special events and activities for which not much changes from year to year. However, Councilman Tony DeLuca brought to his colleagues’ attention the beach soccer tournament falls on the same dates at the O.C. Air Show again this year and recalled some of the backups and other issues related to the two events last year.

“Is there any way to move this special event to a different weekend than the Air Show?” he said. “There were a lot of complaints last year because it was just gridlock.”

Special Events Coordinator Lisa Mitchell told the council she would check with the promoter about moving the event, but said the beach soccer officials had cozied into that weekend over the years.

“That would be a question for the promoter,” she said. “He’s had that same weekend for 10 years. His participants are used to those dates, and they honestly love the Air Show going on at the same time as their event.”

Councilman Wayne Hartman said last year’s O.C. Air Show drew record crowds due to the appearance of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and didn’t necessarily see a potential conflict with the beach soccer tournament again this year. The Blue Angels will not appear at the 2016 O.C. Air Show, but will return in 2017. Instead, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds will be the highlighted act this summer.

“Last year, we had the Blue Angels and it was something unique that brought a lot of people to town,” he said. “This year, we’re back to the Thunderbirds, which is still a great show, but last year was special.”

Councilman Dennis Dare agreed the soccer tournament could peacefully co-exist with the O.C. Air Show because their basic hours and areas were different. Typically, Ocean City approves many special events in three-year increments, but with the Air Show dates often a moving target, it would be difficult to pin down the beach soccer tournament that far in advance, he said.

“The sand soccer tournament starts early in the morning and there isn’t a problem with parking downtown,” he said. “It’s hard to give them a three-year approval on those certain dates because the Air Show dates have moved around. It’s hard to tell the soccer tournament their dates three years ahead of time because we can only predict the Air Show dates about six months in advance.”

Mayor Rick Meehan said the soccer tournament’s schedule had the crowds of participants and spectators ebbing and flowing throughout the event.

“I don’t see that there is any real conflict with the soccer event with the people coming and going all day,” he said. “Where you really see the impact on traffic is when the Air Show ends.”

Meehan said the Air Show typically ends around 5 p.m. and the beach soccer tournament would go on until around 7 p.m., reducing the numbers of spectators leaving all at once. He added the post-Air Show traffic would back up regardless of the tourney.

“The Air Show ends about two hours earlier,” he said. “It’s not like there is this mass exodus all at once with the two events. I think this really works. When the Air Show ends, the traffic will back up and that’s just what’s going to happen, but I don’t think this particular event contributes to that.”