September is going to be a busy special events month in Ocean City with many challenges for town government.
After this weekend’s wine fest comes bike week, the new OC AdventureFest and then the new Oceans Calling Festival, which may or may not coincide with the pop-up rally folks.
The three-day music festival offers an exciting opportunity for Ocean City. It’s clear the economic impact of the event has already been felt with hotel rates and occupancy rates high for the last weekend in September.
This week’s decision to allow bicycling on the Boardwalk the weekend of Oceans Calling is interesting, but we do not see a majority of the 40,000 people coming to the festival arriving by bike. Most attendees will drive, while some will use mass transit and ride shares.
It’s going to be interesting to see how Ocean City handles the mass exodus of people leaving Oceans Calling each night. The main acts – Dave Matthews, The Lumineers and Alanis Morissette – will wrap their sets about 11 p.m. It’s estimated about 40,000 people will attend the festival.
The festival has the potential to be a special event unlike anything the area has seen. The crowds and the rush to leave the grounds will look like the Fourth of July after the fireworks but likely much heavier. The stream of thousands of people rolling out at the conclusion of the last concert will be massive. At most large-scale concert venues, there are four modes of transportation – pedestrians/bicyclists, mass transit (subway and buses), motorists and taxi/ride share.
This will essentially be the case for Ocean City with the exception of the subway. The high rate of booked hotels as well as rentals around the concert site confirm there will be significant pedestrian traffic to and from the event. Numerous buses will need to be stationed downtown to move the concert attendees elsewhere quickly to reduce crowd gathering. Police presence will need to be heavy to assist with traffic controls and common public safety issues that arise with huge crowds.
Ocean City would be wise to utilize the special event zone, which is typically in place that weekend for the pop-up rally. The zone will give police flexibility to shut down certain roads and maybe even expand lanes during heightened times of traffic. It would also bring in some extra personnel. The special event zone will provide some support for the resort as it works through the inevitable challenges from the first-time event.
Planning for the festival is well underway on all fronts, but top of the priority list should be a multi-faceted plan for handling the massive exodus after the shows end each night.