Resort Council Approves Beach Tennis Tourney

OCEAN CITY – Resort officials this week approved a new Beach Tennis MD Open event for the weekend straddling late September and early October, or the same weekend as other major events in the resort.

On Monday, the Mayor and Council heard a pitch to approve a new special event called the Beach Tennis MD Open. Beach tennis is a fairly new sport gaining popularity, according to Special Events Coordinator Lisa Mitchell.

“You may have seen demonstrations of this sport last week at Marlin Fest,” she said. “As an inaugural event, their intent is to establish an annual beach tennis tournament in Ocean City.”

Mitchell explained beach tennis is a hybrid of tennis, beach volleyball and badminton, played on a standard-sized volleyball court with teams of two. The Beach Tennis MD Open is proposed for the weekend of Thursday, Sept. 29 through Sunday, Oct. 2, on the beach between 7th Street and 12th Street, which coincides with the Oceans Calling three-day music festival in the resort in the downtown area. According to the agenda packet, the town’s risk manager did express some concern about spreading the town’s resources too thin with Oceans Calling and other events going on at the same time. However, she also said the proposed beach tennis tournament further up the beach would utilize the least of the town’s resources and would be essentially self-sustainable.

Chip McLeod, representing Beach Tennis Maryland LLC, told the Mayor and Council on Monday he had a history of living and working in Ocean City before taking a different career trajectory. McLeod said he first encountered beach tennis while on vacation and came back determined to help the sport grow.

“One-and-a-half years ago I learned of this exciting sport while with my family in Aruba,” he said. “It’s very exciting. We got home and set a court up in our yard and we thought this is something we should try to start in Ocean City.”

McLeod said the proposed beach tennis tournament would need very little if any town resources.

“I think this coincides nicely with the Oceans Calling event,” he said. “We really don’t need anything from the town, just permission to use a portion of the beach. We are a self-sufficient operation. We have everything covered.”

Council Secretary Tony DeLuca was enthusiastic about the proposed beach tennis tournament, but not exactly enthusiastic about the proposed dates. He suggested looking at later dates in the fall.

“I certainly support the program,” he said. “I just don’t think it’s a good idea to have it coincide with Oceans Calling. We’re expecting 37,000 to 40,000 people that weekend. I just think it’s going to be a traffic nightmare.”

McLeod said he was reluctant to move the tournament dates later into October because of weather concerns. He said many of the participants, including some professionals, would be coming from warmer climes and might not adjust to often brisk October weather in the resort.

“Weather would be my major concern about moving it back in October,” he said.

City Manager Terry McGean clarified the location for the proposed event presented on Monday was different than what was in the original application. McGean said he also supported the event because of its limited impact on already-stressed town resources.

“You’re talking about 7th Street to 12th Street, not 4th Street to 8th Street as it appears on the application,” he said. “They’re literally not asking the town for anything. I think the risk is really low.”

Councilman Frank Knight said the estimated number of participants was fairly low also.

“According to your estimate, you’re looking at 1,000,” he said. “I don’t see that as a conflict with Oceans Calling.”

With that said, the council voted unanimously to approve the new event.

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.