OC Council Signs Off On Bull Riding MOU

OCEAN CITY – The addition of some late changes to the agreement for the inaugural professional bull riding event in the resort in June did not prevent resort officials from signing off on it, although there will be more discussion about the late addition of a concert.

The Mayor and Council had before them on Tuesday a proposed memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) and the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) rodeo at the Inlet parking lot in early June. The event, produced by Triple Creek Events, will take place at the Inlet from June 3-5, with professional bull riding competitions on Friday and Saturday nights, and a matinee competition on Sunday afternoon.

An arena with bleachers will be constructed on a portion of the Inlet parking lot. Several truckloads of dirt will be hauled to the Inlet lot in advance of the bull-riding event in June, creating an eight-inch surface on which the rodeo will be held. Event organizers will haul the dirt back out of the Inlet lot and restore it to its pre-event condition after the rodeo is completed.

The bulls themselves will be housed off the island during the event and trailered in on the days of the competition. Triple Creek Events, will be responsible for the event set-up and breakdown, hauling the dirt in and out and restoring the Inlet lot to its pre-event condition after the event is over.

There will be a VIP section adjacent to the arena in close proximity to the bull riding competition itself. There will also be temporary bleachers installed for the general admission ticketholders. Last month, the Mayor and Council approved a request from Triple Creek for a $75,000 contribution from the town to offset some unanticipated upfront costs to produce the event in exchange for a revenue-sharing plan from ticket sales.

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The town would contribute the $75,000 in exchange for 10% of the revenue from tickets sold, or $5 per ticket sold, whichever is greater. The revenue-sharing plan would remain in place for future bull riding events in the resort until the $75,000 is recouped.

Special Events Director Frank Miller presented the proposed MOU to councilmembers on Tuesday. Miller said there were some late amendments and adjustments to the hours for the three-day event, including a proposed concert at the arena following the competition on both Friday and Saturday nights.

The event will open each day at 9 a.m. with vendors and other amenities for visitors in the build-up toward the actual competition, which will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Miller explained the promoter wants to amend the MOU to allow for a country-themed concert on each of those nights.

“They would like to amend it to 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights,” he said. “The reason for doing that is they would like to include a concert on Friday and Saturday to add an amenity and extend the event. That makes it actually two hours longer.”

Triple Creek representative Bob Pastoria explained the concept of adding the concerts on both Friday and Saturday nights.

“Those in the VIP section will stay for the concert,” he said. “For those with general admission tickets, they will have the option to go out after the show and re-enter the arena for the concert. It would essentially be an upcharge for them. Everybody will leave the general admission areas and anybody that wants to come back in for the concert will pay a second charge to come back in.”

City Solicitor Heather Stansbury said the MOU as presented did not include language about the concerts added to the event.

“The problem is it’s technically a separate event,” she said. “It makes it a little more complicated if it’s a separate event.”

Councilman Mark Paddack pointed out the Jellyfish Festival will be going on during the same weekend on the beach on the north side of the pier. He raised concerns about getting the bull riding ticketholders out of the arena and selling them tickets to go back in for the concerts.

“That’s going to be a challenge to clear out the arena with 4,000 people and get them to come back in,” he said. “We also have a Jellyfish Festival that weekend and that promoter is promoting live music. Triple Creek is promoting professional bull riding. The concert is an add-on.”

Pastoria said the proposed addition of the concerts is an amenity for the guests and enhances the event. He said it is not unusual to have a themed concert associated with the bull riding competition.

“Every one of our events has a VIP party after the competition where the cowboys come in and meet and greet the guests,” he said. “All this does is extend that and open it up to the public. We want everybody to have a great time.”

Miller explained another change to the original MOU was a request for an additional day to break down the arena and restore the Inlet lot. The original MOU had the clear-out deadline as the Wednesday after the Sunday matinee competition, but Miller said the promoter was seeking an extra day, or Thursday, June 9. Councilman John Gehrig asked if the breakdown team needed the full extra day to restore the Inlet lot to its original condition.

“Do they need the full 24 hours, or just an extra work day?” he said. “The reason I ask is for the parking for that Thursday night. I don’t know if it really makes a difference, but I just wanted to clarify that.”

Pastoria said the extra day was needed to break down the bleachers and remove the dirt and restore the lot.

“We want some extra time to break it all down,” he said. “We thought three days would be a little tight. We’ll get it all closed down as fast as we can.”

Pastoria said he believed the breakdown crew would not need all of that Thursday to clear out the event.

“They will have most of it done by Wednesday,” he said. “They’ll work until it’s done. They just need an additional work day. We should be all cleared out by 6 p.m. on Thursday.”

The language in the proposed MOU was altered to reflect that promise of being all cleared out by 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 9, to allow for the use of the parking areas impacted by the event. Another question was raised about the 9 a.m. start time for the event when the competition does not start until 6 p.m. Pastoria explained in addition to the actual professional bull riding competition, there will be vendors and other amenities associated with the event that will go on during the day.

“The 9 a.m. opening until the start of the show would mostly be for the vendors in the area outside the arena,” he said. “It allows them to monetize themselves and make it worth their while. It wouldn’t be worth it for them to set up and be there for the two hours of the show.”

With the professional bull riding event now less than a month away, Miller suggested the council approve the MOU with the subtle amendments and revisit the concert issue in an upcoming meeting before the event.

“I’d like to recommend approving this without the concert and bring that part back for further discussion,” he said. “Time is of the essence with the event now just weeks away. We can look at the concert as a separate issue. This MOU is different than it was just a couple of hours ago.”

Stansbury said the council could approve the MOU to keep the event moving forward without the concerts being included until it is discussed further.

“This MOU does not contemplate anything to do with a concert,” she said. “You can approve this with the amendments, but without the substantive changes including the concert.”

The four-member council, including Paddack, Gehrig, Councilman Frank Knight and Council Secretary Tony DeLuca voted 4-0 to approve the MOU and bring back the issue of the additional concerts at an upcoming work session.

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.