Council Approves Funds For Wrestling Tourney

OCEAN CITY — Resort officials this week signed off on funding for a couple of special events this fall including a significant junior wrestling tournament and a Boardwalk charity bike ride.

During Tuesday’s work session, Tourism Advisory Board (TAB) President Steve Pastusak presented two special events for which the advisory board was recommending funding. Each year, the city grants $300,000 to TAB to provide seed money after careful review to various special events that can and do provide a mutual benefit and a positive return on investment.

As its name suggests, TAB is an advisory board and does not make decisions on allocating funding to various special events, but merely makes recommendations. That responsibility falls on the Mayor and Council, which often follows the TAB recommendations but, in some cases, approves or denies a request after their own review of a proposed special event. TAB funding is a line item in the tourism budget, which is fueled entirely by room tax.

The first event for which TAB was recommending funding is the National High School Coaches Association (NHSCA) and Junior Seahawks Wrestling Tournament scheduled in Ocean City on Nov. 7-8. Pastusak explained the NHSCA had requested $30,000 in funding support from the town for the event scheduled at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center.

Pastusak said the NHSCA hosts an annual wrestling national championship tournament at rival Virginia Beach that attracts to top wrestlers from all over the country and draws thousands of visitors. The Junior Seahawks Tournament planned for November would be the NHSCA’s first foray into Ocean City and promises to provide the same bang for the buck for the resort.

“Their tournaments in Virginia Beach bring in 22,000 people several times a year,” he said. “They are projecting to draw 100 teams or more to the Ocean City tournament. That’s 1,500 room nights in November.”

Pastusak said the NHSCA was asking for $30,000 in supplementary funding, which would cover expenses paid via submitted invoices for the facility rental fee, EMT services, internet costs, audio and visual costs and staff meal tickets. The town’s contribution would also include a $10,000 cash sponsorship.

While the council generally supported the concept, some questioned the breakdown of the town’s donation. Just last week, the Mayor and Council voted to provide $100,000 in funding through TAB for the OC Air Show with the understanding the funds would be used to pay for invoices related to direct expenses. On Tuesday, Councilman Matt James asked about the $10,000 for rather undefined expenses.

“I support the idea of giving money for expenses, but what is the extra $10,000 for?” he said. “I’d be more comfortable if we were paying invoices, similar to what we did with the air show. I’m less comfortable in handing out cash.”

Pastusak assured all funding provided to the NHSCA-Junior Seahawks Tournament would be dedicated to expenses with invoices.

“This is a way to get NHSCA to do more events in our area,” he said. “The intent is to lure them in with this event and they will bring in more events. We just want to get them in the door.”

TAB on Tuesday was also seeking approval to allocate $5,000 in town funding for the Semper Fi Bike Ride on the Boardwalk on Oct. 18.

The council voted unanimously to provide the funding recommended for both events.

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.