OCEAN CITY — The summer-long fireworks displays, laser shows, concerts and other free special events will continue this year and beyond after Ocean City officials voted to extend the contract for the promoter of the activities.
The Mayor and Council last week voted to extend the Tourism Advisory Board (TAB) annual $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 other various venues, Sundaes in the Park and many others through 2017. TEAM Production’s Bob Rothermel, who, along with Jack Hennen, produces many of the value-added special events that have become so popular during the summer and throughout the shoulder seasons, was seeking an extension through 2018, but after considerable debate, the council voted to formally approve the contract extension through 2017 with at least tacit support for an extension through 2018 and beyond.
Rothermel explained the $300,000 investment in TAB has been typically extended in one-year increments, which has somewhat curtailed TEAM Productions’ efforts to secure long-term commitments from private sector sponsors and to take advantage of the cost savings associated with longer-term private contracts. He said TEAM’s successful track record warranted an extension beyond just one year and would help the public-private partnership to explore new special events.
“We’ve been doing shows for a great number of years and brought two of the largest events to Ocean City with Cruisin’ and Endless Summer,” he said. “We hope to continue that trend and explore the different dynamics.”
Rothermel said the fireworks displays, laser shows and concerts on the beach send visitors to the resort home each night with a “wow” factor and keeps them coming back.
“When we first started working with TAB, we were looking for events that put an exclamation point on a visitor’s stay in Ocean City, whether it was a week, a weekend or even a day,” he said. “We believe we’ve done that with the season-long series of special events.”
Rothermel explained the added value, free special events are held almost nightly from Memorial Day to Labor Day with 90 separate events on 41 event-days.
“In the promotion industry, we talk about giving them the ‘goodnight kiss’ where we entertain them by day and send them home at night with an exclamation point,” he said. “These special events, from the fireworks displays to the laser shows, do that for visitors to Ocean City.”
Rothermel said the plans for 2016 include a continuation of last year’s schedule along with two more dates for fireworks displays at Northside Park in conjunction with the popular Sundaes in the Park event, and one more date for beach fireworks. In addition, TEAM would like to explore a beach dance party, further exploration of a 50-and-over series of special events catered to mature visitor and a roving light display moved around the resort creating great photo opportunities for visitors.
“An extension of the contract will allow us to move forward with what we’re already doing and explore new events,” said Rothermel. “We have the will and the experience to show off our greatest assets with ongoing events and new events.”
Councilman Doug Cymek agreed TEAM’s special events were highly successful and made a motion to extend the contract through 2018.
“You have done such a tremendous job over the years,” he said. “I’m confident you will continue to represent Ocean City well.”
However, while supporting the notion of a three-year extension for TEAM Productions, Councilman Dennis Dare pointed out future budget constraints or changing economic conditions made an extension beyond 2017 potentially challenging.
“We can collectively say we intend to fund TAB at $300,000 in the upcoming budget,” he said. “I don’t think we can obligate the Mayor and Council a year from now with another $300,000.”
Cymek’s motion was amended to fund the $300,000 through TAB for fiscal year 2017 with support for an extension through 2018 “subject to an approved appropriation. The motion carried with a 6-1 vote with Dare in opposition.
“That will assist us in making a long-term commitment,” said Rothermel. “We’ve always done this one year at a time and we’ve never been able to keep the ball rolling with a commitment from our private sponsors.”
Mayor Rick Meehan said the extension through 2017 would meet TEAM Productions’ needs to move forward with plans for new special events while not hamstringing the town.
“I think what Bob presents here is a seasonal package of special events that’s commendable,” he said. “I certainly understand we support it to 2018, but it’s tough to bind a future council beyond that. The added value, free events have really helped build a reputation in Ocean City.”