Parking issues persist at Ocean City Convention Center | News

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Attendants, bridge, fees from a range of solutions

With recent growth and aggressive reservation tactics, the Ocean City Convention Center may need to revamp, and possibly expand or monetize, its parking situation.

The 40th Street facility has a large main lot and a smaller one to the south for visitors and vendors. The spaces are free and sufficient for most events. However, complaints are coming, as officials observed during a March 30 budget meeting.

Convention Center General Manager Larry Noccolino called the parking situation “not good” when asked about it at the meeting. He said staff members had received a handful of complaints after a recent cheerleading competition, and added that the number of events that typically result in negative feedback is on the rise.

“There are about seven groups that we might have a parking problem for,” he said at the meeting. “I’m planning more than seven groups because of the extra space and because we’re getting busier and busier.”

The center recently opened a new 45,000 square foot hall, which has increased the space available for conventions, meetings, exhibits, shows and more to 214,000 square feet. Tom Perlozzo, the city’s director of tourism and business development, said his staff are working to attract more events and have hundreds of solid leads, which in turn could increase the need for better parking plan.

While Noccolino said this week he could easily count on two hands the number of complaints he’s heard about parking at the 40th Street facility since the start of 2022, his comments during the meeting of the last week indicate that a problem could be on the horizon.

“The only two times we’ve had a problem so far this year — and I’m saying this year not our exercise, since Jan. 1 — were the boat show and the third cheerleading event,” Noccolino said. “Between those two shows, I received a total of – a combination of emails, voicemails or phone calls – seven… If you want to put a percentage on it, it’s probably 0.000007.”

Still, Noccolino said he and his staff take all comments seriously. And as a result, proactive measures have been taken to remedy the situation. Noccolino said he has spoken with two companies that specialize in parking enforcement and plans to solicit offers in the coming weeks.

“There’s a company going out with a couple of golf carts and probably eight to 10 employees…they’re all on two-way radios or cell phones, and they’re going around the parking lot to see where they can get parking spots. parking available,” he explained. “If there isn’t, they’ll direct people to our south parking lot.”

The company may be hired for a trial run in preparation for the upcoming Maryland Municipal League conference, but will likely only be needed for major events referenced in the budget meeting.

He also acknowledged that the centre’s increasingly busy schedule could also drive the need for a more concerted and permanent parking solution.

Councilor John Gehrig asked at last week’s meeting how problematic parking was and pointed out that it had always been advised in the past that anyone with a problem could take public transport. He also said that while the complaints to Noccolino and his staff were minimal, the event promoters could have sent more.

During the meeting, Noccolino said that a future solution to parking issues, as events increase and more people come to the center, would be the construction of a terrace on the existing lot.

“I see an opportunity that something could be achieved but not parking, parking won’t do anything for us,” he said at the meeting. “A parking lot will do something for us. A parking lot with stadium lighting will do something for us. »

He explained that the stadium lighting would create a dual use for the bridge, which would be ideal.

There were also discussions about whether the city could charge for parking on the lot. While Noccolino remained silent on the subject after the meeting, he said during the meeting that he did not believe he would see a rollback if parking in the 300-space south parking lot was paid.

Mayor Rick Meehan said at the meeting that officials could consider monetizing parking, but indicated they may need to rework lots and create stacking lanes if they decide to go that route. .

He also cautioned against speaking too negatively about the parking situation.

“Let’s not create our own bad publicity,” Meehan said. “It’s great to talk about it here, but let’s not tell everyone because some people don’t have a problem and all of a sudden you tell them there is a problem, and then they all think there is one. So let’s make sure we’re running smart.

Perlozzo added that a simple solution would be to add vehicle trackers that would tell drivers how many spaces are available in lots when they arrive, which he and his staff are investigating.

This story appears in the April 8, 2022 print edition of OC Today.
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