OCEAN CITY — Ocean City is still getting a major OC Lax Fest tournament this summer, but it will be about a month earlier than originally proposed.
In December, the Mayor and Council approved funding for the new OC Lax Fest, the first in a series of outdoor and indoor lacrosse tournaments over the next few years produced by the Legendary Sports Group, which produces many of the larger lacrosse tournaments in the region and around the country. OC Lax Fest is designed to bolster the aging Ocean City Lacrosse Classic, which has been played in and around the resort since its inception in 1993, but has seen its popularity wane in recent years due to stiff competition from other major tournaments around the country. For example, a major tournament in Lake Placid, N.Y., typically held the same weekend as the Ocean City Lacrosse Classic in August, has siphoned off some of the top elite teams.
To that end, the Legendary Sports Group, led by a couple of lacrosse heavyweights in Hall of Famer Dave Cottle, who coached at the University of Maryland and Loyola University, and Dave Pietramala, who coached at Johns Hopkins and won two national championships, brought the concept of the OC Lax Fest to the Mayor and Council. The concept was to hold a major youth tournament for boys and girls during the week in advance of the traditional Ocean City Lacrosse Classic, which is still planned for this August.
The concept is for lacrosse moms and dads to watch their kids play all week in the OC Lax Fest youth tournament, and they suit up and play in the Ocean City Lacrosse Classic men’s and women’s tournaments on the weekend. In that way, the book-ended tournaments become a weeklong celebration of the sport compared to the traditional three or four-day Ocean City Lacrosse Classic.
When the OC Lax Fest was pitched, and ultimately approved, in December, the tournament was set for the second week in August. Resort officials supported the concept, but the desire was to have the tournament in June. The feeling was the proposed August dates fell just after the White Marline Open at a time when the resort is already crowded.
There is already a significant youth tournament in June and the feeling was the OC Lax Classic could be coupled with that event and really fill hotel rooms at a time of the year that needs bolstering. Ultimately, the August dates were approved for this year with the understanding the tournament would be moved to June in out years.
However, the Legendary Sports Group is now requesting to hold the tournament in July for this year. Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association Executive Director Susan Jones, representing the Tourism Advisory Board (TAB) pitched the date change to the Mayor and Council on Monday.
“It was presented before and you approved it,” she said. “However, they are now asking for the July 12-13 dates. As a tourism community, those dates look better. They think they can make it work in July. It’s for this year only. It’s not permanent. The ultimate goal is to have the tournament in June.”
Jones explained the OC Lax Fest games would be played on fields in the county at-large for this year. She reiterated the goal is to have the tournament in June in the future, along with indoor tournaments each winter produced by the same group.
“Northside Park is not available for the July dates,” she said. “The games will be played on fields out in the county. They are also working on an indoor tournament for next winter.”
Jones urged the Mayor and Council, which has long desired attracting major sports events to the town as part of an image rebranding, to approve the date change for this year.
“This is a group we can work with,” she said. “The goal is to attract large sports tournaments, and this group has a great track record.”
Based on a recommendation from TAB, the Mayor and Council in December approved funding at $50,000 for the first year, $40,000 for the second year, and $30,000 in the third year. The tournament is expected to draw as many as 100 teams with 20 players each, along with their families and supporters, which should fill a lot of hotel rooms. With the games to be played out in the county for this year, Mayor Rick Meehan questioned of the tournament’s website and marketing materials would include a direct link to book rooms in participating Ocean City hotels, essentially known as a housing authority.
“If the tournament is going to be held out in the county, I think it’s important that we have a housing authority,” he said. “It’s in our best interest.”
Jones said a memorandum of understanding has not yet been established, but that could be a condition of approval.
“The goal is not to always have it out in the county,” she said. “They’re desire is always Northside Park. They’re just trying to get through this first year.”
The council ultimately approved the date change for this year with the conditions from the prior approval in December still in place.