Winterfest Sound Upgrades Needed

OCEAN CITY — The deteriorating sound system on the Winterfest of Lights trams could be greatly enhanced as town officials explore opportunities for replacing it.

Late last year, the Mayor and Council approved the purchase of two Jeep Wranglers to pull the Boardwalk trams, which are also used at the Winterfest of Lights event each winter. Town officials have been exploring the replacement of the eight Boardwalk tram motor units and the trailing passenger cars and that process is ongoing. In the short term, however, the town is purchasing two Jeeps to pull some of the Boardwalk trams this summer while awaiting a decision on the final tram replacement.

The replacement process has presented an opportunity to upgrade the sound system for trams, particularly for their use at Winterfest of Lights. Special Events Director Frank Miller this week told the Transportation Committee the sound system has been curtailing the visitor experience during Winterfest.

“The synchronized music during the 12-minute ride is a major part of the experience,” he said. “However, with the antiquated sound system in the trams, that experience has deteriorated and we need to enhance the audio system.”

Miller said the problems with the existing system were threefold. For one, the head radio unit requires produced music tracks on CDs, which means the head radio unit in the trams have open slots.

“The problem we’ve run into in recent years is the actual radio unit requires CDs and we run into moisture issues,” he said. “The CDs might skip, or they might not work at all.”

Another problem involves the aging speakers in the tram passenger cars. Miller explained the main radio is located in the tram motor unit with speakers located at intervals in the two trailing passenger cars. As a result, the sound quality is often sufficient or even good from the speakers closest to the tram motor unit and the main radio, but deteriorates incrementally the further back they are in the passenger cars.

“The speakers are deteriorating and the music is often crackled or distorted,” he said. “The head deck powers all 10 speakers in the passenger cars and the signal weakens as it travels. We want to enhance the experience for visitors.”

Miller said he had priced some enhanced systems and came up with a working price of around $820 each for the nine trams, or a total of around $7,300. He explained the success of this winter’s event created an overage in the Winterfest budget of around $14,000 from which the expense of replacing tram audio system could be funding. Because the proposed purchase falls under the town’s $15,000 threshold for request for proposals (RFP), the purchase would not need approval from the council.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.