Marlin Fest Park

Ocean City officials unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding in connection with Marlin Fest. The event will take place at the Third Street baseball fields from Aug. 2-6, will be free to the public and will feature a live stream of the White Marlin Open weigh-ins via large screen televisions.

Council agrees to provide $14.9K of in-kind services for live streaming weigh-ins

Organizers of Marlin Fest – an event in August that allows people to watch weigh-ins of the pelagic royalty during the White Marlin Open tournament – reached an agreement with the Ocean City mayor and City Council on Monday that requires the former to pay $2,891 in fees with the understanding that they would get $14,880 worth of in-kind services from the city.

The “Marlin Fest” segment of the White Marlin Open will take place at the Third Street ballfields from Aug. 2 to 6 between the hours of 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. The event is free to the public and will feature a live stream of the tournament via large screen televisions as well as nearly 30 vendors selling things like food, alcohol, and tournament merchandise.

A draft version of the MOU was first reviewed by the City Council on April 27, when event organizers Madelyne Rowan and Sasha Motsko met with them during a work session.

During the review in April, the council approved the event with in-kind services up to, and consistent with the number of in-kind services provided in 2019. 

Organizers were also required to pay the town a facility and one-time vendor fee totaling $2,891.

Rowan and Motsko raised issue with the fees during the April meeting because it’s on the city’s recreation and parks properties, which require a facility fee of $125 per vendor per day. That would come to $625 per vendor for the week, as opposed to sports tournaments – such as lacrosse or baseball – where organizers are charged a vendor concession fee of $75 that covers all vendors.

Under the recreation and parks fee structure, though, organizers of the Marlin Fest would be required to pay upwards of $20,000.

“We can’t even make our money back ... we’re losing money on vendors,” Rowan said at the time. “We’re asking for some leeway here.”

And leeway she was given, but mainly because the event falls within a gray area when it comes to fees. During a meeting in May, Recreation and Parks Director Susan Petito said the fee schedule was set up for Northside Park specifically because the city has a concession stand there. When events take place at the park, organizers bring in vendors to sell food and the city loses out on money. To offset the loss, the city charges a fee.

But for parks like the Third Street ballfields, a concession stand does not exist and the need for the fee was questioned.

Another concern raised at the April council work session was in-kind services for the festival. In the past, the city provided the White Marlin Open with trash cans as well help from police and public works, along with a shuttle to and from the White Marlin Open at the Harbour Island Marina. The city’s estimated value of those services was $20,000.

This year, though, the shuttle will not be used.

Ultimately, Councilman John Gehrig moved to provide up to $20,000 of in-kind services, at the time, and have the vendor pay the $75 vendor fee, which gained unanimous approval.

Ocean City Private Events Director Lisa Mitchell told the council on Monday that she met with the city manager, budget manager and special events director and reviewed the 2019 costs submitted by the departments for in-kind services and it was agreed that the total was $14,880.19.

“This amount was from expenses quantified by both the department and the budget manager as being a direct expense to the added tasking for the event,” Mitchell said. “Also, the MOU after that was included was reviewed by both the White Marlin Open representatives as well as the city solicitor.”

Councilman Mark Paddack moved to approve the MOU, which was seconded by Councilman Lloyd Martin then approved, 6-0.

This story appeared in the print version of Ocean City Today on June 25, 2021.

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