OCEAN CITY – The ongoing battle over what weekend the OC Air Show will be held this summer has come to a rest, but additional concerns surfaced about the event at City Hall this week.
The Mayor and City Council had asked the newly formed Tourism Advisory Board to meet with Ocean City Air Show Coordinator Bryan Lilley and poll the business community in deciding on the most effective date to hold the Ocean City Air Show in the approaching summer.
“A lot of the feedback did show that the first weekend would actually be better for the show in terms of getting room comps, and getting some in-kind services from the community,” Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association (OCHMRA) Executive Director Susan Jones said. “It was a softer weekend. However, there was very little chance in getting some of the demo teams that have a really nice draw for this event.”
After meeting with Lilley, the board decided to go with the second weekend, June 11-12.
In future years, the board does prefer the Air Show to be held on the first weekend of June.
“That is preferable to the businesses to get more tourism and to get a bigger bang for your buck and your sponsorship dollars,” Jones said.
Councilman Lloyd Martin motioned that the council accept the Tourism Advisory Board’s recommendation to hold the OC Air Show the second weekend in June in this upcoming year and next year look to hold it the first weekend. His motion was seconded by Councilwoman Mary Knight.
Councilman Joe Hall pointed out that also part of the board’s recommendation, stated in a letter, was that Ocean City Special Events Director John Sullivan should accompany Lilley to the International Council of Air Shows to further strengthen the relationships required to continue the Air Show success.
“I think that should be part of the motion and I think that that should come out of the expense of the Air Show,” Joe Hall said.
Pillas supported Hall in that the budget for fiscal year 2012 is in discussion at this time and that the board’s recommendation to have Sullivan attend the international show and its expenses to do so needs to be considered at this time as well.
Joe Hall also questioned Martin’s motion in that if the language confirms future Air Show dates or not.
“We may have the Blue Angels the second week and they [Tourism Advisory Board] may come back and tell us they prefer to have it the second weekend and I think this needs to be looked at year to year,” Martin said.
Jones confirmed the board would prefer to see it the first weekend, but the prime goal is to select the weekend that will build the best revenue for the community.
“We feel that it would be more advantageous for the use of your money and for higher hotel tax revenue,” Jones said.
Tourism Advisory Board Chair Melanie Pursel, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, said, “However, it is contingent often upon the jet team. If the jet team is only available the second weekend next year, its all a cost benefit analysis, every year we would have to look at it.”
The council voted unanimously to have the OC Air Show held the second weekend in June for the summer of 2011.
Although the council voted, the conversation and concern over the dates chosen continued.
Mayor Rick Meehan questioned whether complimentary rooms would be available for the second weekend in June this summer. Available rooms need to be confirmed before the final approval moves forward, he said.
“We need a commitment from the business community … this is really their show,” Meehan said.
Jones affirmed that Lilley feels confident in acquiring the amount of hotel or motel rooms necessary to house the participants of the Air Show.
“I think your recommendation is right on the money this year, I think the best weekend is the second,” Meehan said. “The key is lets just make it the best it can possibly be on whatever weekend it is.”
Joe Hall then requested an update on the work the newly formed Tourism Advisory Board has been conducting, asking them to return to a work session in January. He wants to know how the membership set up the board, who serves on it and the mechanics of how the board plans to interact with staff and the council.
Pillas asked if there were any other events or activities the board has been working on that it could share with the council at this time.
Due to the fact that the Harley-Davidson of West Ocean City, promoter of Delmarva Bike Week, shut down recently, the position to promote this successful event is available for the taking. Jones said that the board has a great opportunity with a “Class A” promoter to organize upcoming bike weeks.
Council President Jim Hall turned the conversation back to the matter at hand and asked Jones and Pursel about the influential aspect of high school graduates and the time they visit the town. High school graduates offer participating military branches of the OC Air Show an ample opportunity for recruiting.
“We talked about recruiting,” Jones said.
The board felt the graduates are here either the first or second weekend in June and their presence is stronger in the second weekend. But, the board is still mainly concerned over building enough tax revenue to cover the sponsorship of the event.
Pillas returned to the motion to have Sullivan attend the next International Council Air Show and the expense needs to be covered at that time.
Hall asserted that the expense should be covered by the $50,000 that the town funds Lilley to conduct the Air Show.
“He charges us for him going, so why not,” Joe Hall said.
City Manager Dennis Dare expressed to the council that the contract held with Lilley lists responsibilities the town holds through that agreement. The motion proposed modifies the agreement in that it is in the next year’s budget, and it should be addressed during next year’s budget process.