(Feb. 14, 2020) The Ocean City Council approved a request for $18,300 by Premier 1 Events to rent basketball courts at the Ocean City convention center for basketball tournaments slated for June 6-7.
The money will be used to help offset the costs of booking the four basketball courts in the convention center.
Tourism Advisory Board [TAB] Chairman Steve Pastusak said in 2018, 98 teams played in tournaments split between Ocean City and Snow Hill, resulting in roughly half of the players, family members, coaches and viewers booking hotels in Salisbury.
The following year, all tournaments were held in Ocean City with the addition of the convention center courts, and despite a lack of time to advertise, the city managed to increase the number of teams by 59 percent and secured roughly 1,007 room nights — a 65 percent increase from 2018.
Both the number of teams and number of room nights are expected to grow this year, with a 100 percent growth in teams and 1,400 projected room nights in the resort.
Originally, Premier 1 had requested $25,000 in financial assistance, bu, Pastusak said the board chose to reduce the amount because it had granted the applicant a full funding request previously.
The board follows a three-year funding policy, where each year the funding it grants decreases, and after the third year the applicant is no longer eligible for tourism board money.
Councilman Dennis Dare expressed concerns over the request, viewing it as too high.
“We’re talking about something less than $40,000 in registration fees,” Dare said. “As far as the city is concerned, our revenue source would come from room tax. Assuming $200 a night average room cost, that would yield the town around $12,600. It seems like a huge request for not a whole lot of return.”
Pastusak said the applicant has been bringing basketball tournaments to Ocean City since 2014, and had been willing to move it fully to the resort two years ago, which resulted in the aforementioned gains in room nights.
Councilman John Gehrig said the council needed to be consistent in approving funds, and he pointed to an earlier funding approval for the Shore Craft Beer Fest: Love on Tap event.
Then, the council members had argued in favor of funding the event for its potential in drawing in investors and businesses to the resort.
“TAB vetted it out, and we’re trying to be a sports destination, and it’s not just sports, it’s participant-based activities in general,” Gehrig said. “This is part of helping promoters do business in Ocean City, make it easy for them to come to Ocean City and make them want to come to Ocean City and grow their events.”
The council voted to approve the funding request, with Councilmen Tony DeLuca and Lloyd Martin absent.