Ocean City Today

Inlet, sports center studies could have big affect on OC

By Katie Tabeling | Oct 19, 2017
Commissioner Joe Mitrecic

(Oct. 20, 2017) Worcester County Commissioner Joe Mitrecic told Ocean City officials Monday night that two studies are underway that could lead to changes in the resort’s tourism industry.

During his quarterly report to the City Council on Monday night, Mitrecic warned officials to keep on top of the Ocean City inlet economic study, as that could heavily affect the fishing industry.

“Due to the shoaling, the commercial fishing fleet has moved north to New Jersey, and that causes a loss of jobs and fuel sales,” he said. “That trickles down, affects the whole county and costs us thousands of dollars in terms of revenue. It could also affect our charter boat and recreational fishing business in the future.”

Worcester county officials started developing a study of the inlet area this year, follow the decrease in funding from the Army Corps of Engineers.

“Unfortunately, the money needed to dredge the inlet is based off its economic viability,” Mitrecic said. “When the tonnage that comes out of it decreases, so does the funding. It’s a catch-22. We need to make the inlet a viable commodity so we ensure these monies keep coming our way.”

The commissioner and Mayor Rick Meehan were also on the same page regarding the proposed outdoor sports recreation complex. Both men believed that it would help Worcester County become a tournament and vacation destination, with the taxpayers reaping the benefits.

Mitrecic stressed that sports tournaments would be a perfect replacement for events residents want to eliminate, like the H2O International Audi/Volkswagen car rally.

“If we do [away] with these events … it’ll create a vacuum in the business community. If it’s not filled by us, it’ll be filled by someone else, and with worse events we have now,” he said. “These tournaments are family events, low impact and bring great numbers to the county.”

In September, a commissioner majority voted to have county staff identify possible locations for a sports complex expected to cost $9.2 million. Early studies show the proposed facility would generate $210,000 revenue against $393,000 in expenses in the first three years.

The trade-off would be $5.9 million in economic impact throughout the county, from room rentals, food and beverage sales and other spending.

The council identified increasing its sport tourism as a priority during strategic planning sessions last month, and the sports complex could be a game-changer. Meehan thought building the facility near the resort would go a long way in pushing out “less than desirable events.”

“We believe that sports marketing is the future for Ocean City to replace some events,” he said. “It would mean a lot to the northern end of the county, and, hopefully, we can get all the commissioners on board.”

Commissioner President Jim Bunting and Commissioner Chip Bertino, both of Ocean Pines, voted against proceeding with a new study.

“I figure that we can send H2Oi promoters a rental list in Ocean Pines,” Mitrecic joked.

On a serious note, the commissioner pointed out to Meehan and the council that the outdoor sports complex would be in the best interest for the entire county.

“People don’t vacation the way they used to,” he said. “We’re seeing more teams traveling for tournaments, and they come with grandparents, parents, brothers and sisters. If we could get them to incorporate a week at the beach while they’re here for the game, it’d be great for Ocean City and the county as a whole.”

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