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TEAM, BikeFest events get funding

(Jan. 30, 2015) The Ocean City Council grappled this week with the prospect of a long-term deal with TEAM productions, the local company that puts on a variety of public programming in the summer and fall months.

Although TEAM had requested a three-year deal from the city’s Tourism Advisory Board, the board ultimately agreed to two years, which was further scrutinized by the council.

“This is the first time we’ve asked for multiple years, usually it’s been a year-to-year funding request,” said TAB Chair Greg Shockley. “TEAM has requested this because it would help them with budgeting and planning.”

However, the council was concerned that the luster of the events, which have attracted thousands, by the city’s estimate, would wear off unless re-examined every year.

“I really don’t want to be tied into a certain kind of show for two years,” said Council Secretary Mary Knight. “We need to study the technology, study the effectiveness … to make sure the shows we’re presenting bring the results.”

“We want to keep things fresh. Everything evolves and changes,” said Councilman Dennis Dare.

TEAM’s contract, with a total value of $300,000, involves dozens of individual events. Laser light and pyrotechnic shows will run every Sunday night from late May to early September. Through July and August, fireworks will also be held on Sundays at Northside Park, and on Mondays and Tuesdays on the downtown beach.

TEAM will also be putting on a second year of OC Sandfest, a sand sculpture festival, from Aug. 24-30, as well as another year of the Halloween beach maze Oct. 17-18 and 24-25.

But contrary to the council’s stance, TEAM owner Bob Rothermel said that the best way to keep the events fresh was to commit for more than one year.

“Having a two-year deal is how you get new technology into the shows, because we can invest this year and benefit for two years,” Rothermel said. “I think we can bring more to the table by having a good feeling that we’re going to be there for the next year.”

Since the first year of laser and fireworks events in 2012, Rothermel has been able to add additional dates and show features without increasing the contract price, simply by learning how to cut costs and investing the savings in additional materials. But as things get bigger and better, this means of growth will naturally dry up.

“Each year, we’ve increased the events and activities while keeping the same charge, because we get a number of lessons learned,” Rothermel said.

“Bob has never been content to sit on the same technology,” Shockley said. “You’re not seeing the same thing you saw last year … he has always pushed the ball down the court.”

“The laser show today far exceeds in what it’s producing now than what we agreed to three years ago,” Mayor Rick Meehan agreed.

As a compromise of sorts, the council agreed to a two-year contract but with an opt-out clause that would allow the city to place additional stipulations on the deal after the 2015 shows. The contract would then automatically renew that fall for 2016.

Shockley also requested another TAB funding item, a $20,000 subsidy for the OC BikeFest, scheduled for Sept. 17-20.

The contribution is less than what it was in 2014, when the town funded $35,000 for BikeFest.

“One of the directives we’ve been given by you guys is to wean the event off [public funding],” Shockley said.

“Our goal has always been that this [TAB allocation] is start-up money, and at some point they should be able to sustain themselves,” Knight said.

This will be the fifth year for BikeFest. Events currently being vetted by TAB, Shockley said, are being told they have a two-to-three year window of assistance to get up and running.

“‘Zero’ would be ideal [for BikeFest] next year,” Dare said.

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