The Ocean City Mayor and Council is not confident an event held in West Ocean City will bring enough business to Ocean City to merit $25,000 in funding support.
The county is looking to land the Great Inflatable Race at a price tag of $65,000. The fun run features huge inflatables and will be located for one day on a West Ocean City school’s grounds. After a lot of discussion, the council approved the $25,000 expense recommended by the Tourism Advisory Board (TAB) if the event is moved into Ocean City. The county point person, Rec Director Tom Perlozzo, said he would talk with the promoter and return if the event could be on the beach or another resort site.
The council was right to have concerns about this event’s return on investment for Ocean City businesses and taxpayers.
Ten years ago, we believe the council would have funded this proposal. Before the new hotels and restaurants in West Ocean City, it would have been a safe assumption Ocean City would have gotten a lot of business from a few thousand-people taking part in the event. It’s anything but a given during the last week of June. With a couple hundred lodging units – more than 100 built within the last few years — in West Ocean City and dozens of places to eat, there’s no guarantee people would frequent Ocean City. Therefore, spending $25,000 – 38% of the total price tag – on an event with an unclear economic impact was frowned upon this week.
Though the conversation this week shines another spotlight on the city-county division, the more pressing matter in Ocean City involves TAB’s role with these sorts of events. After hearing the proposal and vetting it, TAB recommended the council give $25,000 to the event. If the tourism folks backed it, we think the recommendation should mean something. We question how much of an economic impact the event will truly have on Ocean City operations, but if the tourism people think otherwise their opinion should carry weight. We would be more amenable to giving it a chance if the business community is confident the one-time seed money will be worth it. Council members say TAB is not elected by the citizens and does not have the same responsibility to the electorate.
While that’s true, it’s understandable TAB may take umbrage at this event’s denial. It’s not the first time a TAB recommendation has not been greenlighted. The good news for TAB is its request to provide $18,000 for basketball flooring to keep a growing tourney solely in Ocean City did get funded.