OCEAN CITY — Concerns about some elements in the terms sheet for the OC Air Show contract in future years caused resort officials this week to table a discussion on the proposed document.
Tourism and Business Development Director Tom Perlozzo on Tuesday presented Tuesday the basic framework for negotiations on a new three-year contract with the OC Air Show. The terms sheet presented was not a contract, but merely an outline of sorts for some of the issues between the town and the promoter, which will provide a framework for negotiations on the actual three-year contract.
The terms sheet closely follows the framework for past contracts with the air show. It includes 15 items that deal with payment terms, revenue sharing, the live stream of the event, insurance, etc.
“As part of our discussions over the last year or so, it was suggested we go back and develop a three-year contract with the Air Show,” he said. “What you have in front of you is the terms sheet. It’s not a contract. It’s going to be based on our discussions with the promoter.”
Perlozzo said the town wants to work with the promoter to ensure one of the top military jet demonstration teams is always part of the air show.
“The proposed term is three years,” he said. “We talked in terms of securing specific dates in the hopes of securing the large military operators, such as the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds.”
However, there were a couple of items on which the Mayor and Council wanted more information before approving the terms sheet.
For example, one item defines what qualifies as a headline act for the OC Air Show. Item 14 on the proposed term sheet addresses a major military jet team headline act. The item states, “no less than one of the following: the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds; the U.S. Navy Blue Angels; the Canadian Air Force Snowbirds; or two or more U.S. military single ship jet demonstrations.”
Perlozzo said the OC Air Show promoter always desires to have the Blue Angels or the Thunderbirds. In a perfect year, the availability of one of those two major jet teams coincides with Father’s Day weekend, which is the window desired by the promoter. In response to a question about ticket sales for the 2022 show earlier this month, Perlozzo said the earlier date this year, June 11-12, curtailed ticket sales somewhat. This year’s event was held the weekend before Father’s Day and featured the Thunderbirds.
“I don’t know the exact numbers, but I think he said he was down about 30%,” he said. “He wanted the Air Show on Father’s Day weekend, but it was earlier. That was based on the availability of the Thunderbirds. It’s all up to the opportunity to secure a military headline act.”
Special Events Director Frank Miller, who worked for the air show prior to joining the town, said there are stringent qualifications in bringing in one of the major military demonstration teams such as the Blue Angels or Thunderbirds, and the schedules are made well in advance. The Blue Angels last performed in Ocean City in 2019. For several years, the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels rotated as headliners each year.
“The Department of Defense requires a primary date and a secondary date,” he said. “One of the concerns of the producer is to make sure we don’t have the air show too early. Depending on how the calendar falls, there is an intent to have the air show on Father’s Day weekend. Father’s Day is the preferred date.”
Council Secretary Tony DeLuca said the Thunderbirds are committed to the air show in 2023 and asked if a similar commitment from the Blue Angels could be secured for 2024. Perlozzo said there have discussions about securing the Blue Angels for 2024.
“We are in negotiations with the Blue Angels,” he said. “I guess there was a little snafu. We think we will get the Blue Angels for 2024, but again, we don’t hold the cards. We’ll make every effort on our end to bring them back to Ocean City.”
The “snafu” Perlozzo mentioned occurred in 2019. The resort’s reputation with the Blue Angels took a hit then when a police escort from Wallops Island, where the jets were stationed, to Ocean City was not made available to the demonstration team. The escort significantly reduces the 90-minute travel time between Wallops and Ocean City and had been provided in the past.
During this week’s meeting, Councilman Frank Knight questioned the definition of the headline act in the proposed terms sheet.
“Are you comfortable one of the defined headline acts could be two single ships?” he said. “We’ve had that discussion before. It just doesn’t seem like a headline act to me.”
Miller said the definition in the terms sheet included a contingency in a year that either the Blue Angels or the Thunderbirds are not available.
“The jet teams are not guaranteed at any point,” he said. “We can have several single ship military demonstrations as well as some private jet demonstrations. The producer has made the effort to ensure the lineup will be full of things that would be entertaining and desirable for the public.”
Councilman Matt James suggested because there are questions about specific items in the proposed term sheet, those concerns could be addressed, and the terms sheet be brought back to a council work session.
“I don’t know what our June 28 work session agenda looks like, but there seems to be a lot of questions,” he said.
“Is there any reason we can’t table this until then to get some answers to some of these things? I’d rather get it right.”
Councilman Mark Paddack, who had made a motion to approve the terms sheet as proposed, agreed there were some questions, but said there would be time to address those issues when the contract came back to the council.
“I’m hearing a lot of dancing around here,” he said. “I know we want to get this right, but this is the first time we negotiated with the air show. The motion is to approve the terms in coordination with the city solicitor. We know there is going to be a contract coming back to us. At that point, I would suggest moving the contract to a work session.”
Mayor Rick Meehan said he desired stronger language requiring one of the major American military jet demonstration teams is included in the air show.
“The headliners are the Thunderbirds and the Blue Angels,” he said. “Those are the acts that make the air show go. I think we need to have one or the other to do the air show. That’s just me. They make it a patriotic American air show. That’s the draw. To have them in conjunction with these other teams, that’s even better.”
Perlozzo said the promoter makes every effort to secure either the Blue Angels or the Thunderbirds and has been successful for numerous years.
“The promoter is proud of what he produces in Ocean City,” he said. “We need to work together in the effort to bring in the Blue Angels. He’s willing to work with us. He’ll make every effort to do what you want him to do.”
Another issue that created some heartburn for the council was a clause in the proposed terms sheet that grants the promoter the right to provide its own equipment, including, but not limited to chairs, tables and umbrellas, in the venue, which runs from 13th Street to 17th Street. However, some on the council questioned if that potential clause violates the beach equipment rental franchisee’s rights to exclusivity in that four-block area during the air show. Perlozzo said the air show promoter has successfully worked with the beach franchisee in the past. “The producer has worked well with the local franchisee,” he said. “In the past, there has been the use of some sponsored equipment and that’s noted in this document. They always make sure they reach an amicable agreement with the beach equipment franchisee.”
Miller said that particular item could use more scrutiny.
“We need to look at this particular item more closely at the staff level,” he said. “We need to come up with some proper way to manage it. It’s everyone’s desire to make sure the beach franchisee, the town and the promoter are all happy with the arrangement.”
Perlozzo said the perceived conflicts with the beach equipment franchisee was not unique to the air show and occurs with other special events on the beach.
“The air show is not a singular issue as it related to the beach franchise,” he said. “It includes other events that we’ve been made aware with potential concern for the beach rental franchise operator.”
Meehan said there could be some compromise reached. He said the air show brings in some equipment that the beach equipment franchisee does not offer.
“The question is the type of equipment the beach franchisee rents such as chairs and umbrellas,” he said. “There has to be a compromise in there. I know they want to get this done too. We don’t want to go through what we went through last year with this contract. That’s not in anyone’s best interest.”
After considerable debate, the council decided to table the proposed terms sheet for the air show until next week’s work session in an effort to get some of there concerns addressed and questions answered.