Ongoing talks between the leaders of Wildwood, North Wildwood and Wildwood Crest and the island’s tourism authority are being held to determine the economic impact of hosting events and how those burdens can be reduced for taxpayers.
“We’ve met and it was generally agreed upon the city of Wildwood can’t afford to cover all the expenses for these events,” Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. said Monday.
The talks began as Wildwood looked to increase the fees it charges to host a bevy of beach events each summer.
So far, the city has reached an agreement with Beach Buddy Events LLC for two summer electronic dance music, or EDM, concerts on the beach.
According to those contracts, the organizer will pay the city $1.50 per ticket sold or $15,000, whichever is greater.
Anthony Morrison, of Beach Buddy Events, said he wanted to hold two events in Wildwood, on June 28 and Aug. 16, because of the city’s expansive beaches and because it has already successfully hosted a major event: the Kenny Chesney concert held in Wildwood in 2012.
“I think it’s certainly reasonable,” Morrison said of the fees he has agreed to pay. “We’re looking to be here for the long-term. We’re looking to build a brand.”
He hopes to draw 6,000 to 7,000 people to the first concert.
The conversations between the mayors and the tourism authority, however, have yet to lead to a firm resolution between the city and other organizers.
Morey’s Piers, for instance, has a long list of events scheduled for this summer, including May’s Annual Spring Beach Jam, the June Cape Express Beach Blast Soccer Tournament, July’s Cape Express MORE Beach Blast Soccer Tournament and Beach Sports Festival including Beach Lacrosse, Hockey and Rugby; A Closer Walk — Christian Youth Weekend in July and August; and September’s 14th Annual Fall Beach Jam.
"No decision has yet been made about where the event will take place, but it will proceed as scheduled," the Cape Express Soccer Club said in a statement. The club has no further comment at this time."
Morey’s opted not to comment Monday, but the company has asked Wildwood Crest if it can host an event this summer.
Wildwood Crest Mayor Carl Groon said Monday that the borough supported efforts by the Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority to resolve the matter before the season.
“We don’t have that many events. We’re not as commercial,” Groon said of his community.
But he added the events, which bring thousands of visitors each year along with hotel stays and visits to local restaurants and other businesses, are important island-wide.
“We’d certainly like to see these issues resolved,” he said.
John Siciliano, executive director of the authority, said costs of events have changed over time and as attendance grows.
“We’re looking to see during the year 2014 what the impacts of these are on the municipalities,” Siciliano said.
The costs associated with the various events are difficult to pinpoint in some cases as summer police officers, for instance, are hired to work throughout the season not just for events.
“It costs me hundreds of thousands of dollars to maintain that beach,” Troiano said, “and we maintain that beach a lot of times for the benefit of these events.”
In 2013, Wildwood set aside $663,900 in salaries just for environmental maintenance, which covers the cost of maintaining the beach and other services, but how much of that is directly tied to any individual event has not been determined.
North Wildwood Mayor Patrick Rosenello said Monday that the talks between the three towns are “still a work in progress,” but he said it's a good idea every so often to review how events are handled.
“We’re working on a draft memorandum of agreement on that,” Rosenello said.
His community hosts events such as the Irish Festival that don’t use the beach, but do require a large contingent from the police department, public works and the hiring of Cape May County Sheriff’s Officers. Local businesses do contribute about $20,000 to the city each year to help defray some costs related to the festival, and all island businesses pay a tourism development fee.
But those needs could change if organizers such as Morey’s Piers bring their events to town.
“Morey’s Piers has reached out to Wildwood Crest and North Wildwood with regard to moving these events,” he said.
Those discussions are in the early stages and no decisions have been made by either town.
And Rosenello said it is important to note that the events are a draw for the island. “They are a huge economic engine,” he said.
But he said the conversations about the burden events place on each town are worth a fresh look.
“All three mayors and GWTIDA agree this is a good time to review how we handle these events,” he said.
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