Carolina Country Music Fest organizers are seeking an estimated $108,000 from the city through in-kind services to police and clean-up its second annual event and $100,000 in accommodations tax revenues to promote it.
Myrtle Beach City Council approved the request for in-kind services and will consider the accommodations tax (a-tax) request Tuesday. But council members appear to be split on whether or not to allow the popular event to “double dip” in city coffers, especially after denying a local organization receiving a-tax money $2,800 in in-kind services for a St. Patrick’s Day event.
“We kind of set a precedent … about in-kind services versus a-tax money,” said Mayor pro tem Mike Lowder, who added he couldn’t support a decision to grant both. “I just want folks to understand that we’re not going to double-dip here.”
The state’s accommodations tax is collected when visitors pay to stay in area hotels and at other lodging. Under state law, a city must use its allotment of the tax revenues to advertise and promote tourism-, arts- and cultural-related activities that increase tourism. Funds can also be used for additional city resources like law enforcement, highway and street maintenance and beach renourishment needed to accommodate the extra tourism.
The Oceanfront Merchants Association requested in-kind services, like city police and trash pickup, to support its one-day St. Patrick’s Day event, but found opposition among the council after hearing OMA receives $150,000 each year in a-tax money.
Council members expressed concerns that organizations shouldn’t be awarded both. The popular event was canceled.
“OMA appreciates everything the city gives to us in in-kind services like use of the (Plyler) Park,” said OMA’s Executive Director Peggy Iverson.
She said she thought in-kind services “should be decided on a case-by-case basis because every event company is different and has a different mission and reason why they’re putting on an event.”
OMA has helped charitable causes in the past, but also operates with a goal of putting heads in beds, feet on streets and dollars in doors, she said. “Our mission is to offer enjoyable experiences and create memories for our families that visit because we want to give them reasons to come back to Myrtle Beach.”
I just want folks to understand that we’re not going to double-dip here.
Mike Lowder, Myrtle Beach mayor pro tem
Councilman Wayne Gray agreed the events should be looked at on a case-by-case basis.
Organizers say the Carolina Country Music Fest drew more than 20,000 country music fans each day of the festival in June and ticket sales for the second festival are outpacing last year.
“Tickets are definitely above this time last year and definitely beyond the projections for this year,” said Amie Lee, president of Palmetto Event Productions, Inc., who recently addressed the council on behalf of CCMF’s producers, Full House Productions, a marketing company based in Charlotte, N.C.
Lee said country music fans in 42 states have bought tickets for the June 9-12 festival at the former Pavilion site, east of North Kings Highway between Eighth Avenue North and Ninth Avenue North. On the international front, she said, attendees have signed up to come from Canada, France, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Germany, Bermuda and Ireland.
“We’re very excited for it to be a second-year festival,” Lee said.
This year’s lineup includes headliners Tim McGraw, Keith Urban and Florida Georgia Line among more than 30 national, regional and local artists. Also taking the stage during the three-day music fest will be Cole Swindell, Jake Owen, A Thousand Horses, Kelsea Ballerini, Michael Ray, Maren Morris, Chris Lane, Kane Brown, Joe Nichols, Chase Bryant and Lauren Jenkins.
“It doesn’t offend me that a promoter is asking both for accommodations tax that may be used to help promote the event as well as (in-kind services),” Gray said. “I think it’s appropriate ... to evaluate the impact of that event and separate that from who the promoter is.”
An event that draws in that many people and “the international and national exposure that comes from the acts of Keith Urban, Tim McGraw and Florida Georgia Line, those are what I call extraordinary events,” Gray said at a city council workshop March 8. “That would be different from a local St. Patrick’s Day event so I’m willing to consider both appropriations.”
It doesn’t offend me that a promoter is asking both for accommodations tax that may be used to help promote the event as well as (in-kind services).
Wayne Gray, Myrtle Beach city councilman
Mayor John Rhodes said last year’s event was successful and brought a lot of recognition to Myrtle Beach. This year’s music fest is on track to draw even bigger crowds, which will mean business for local hotels, he said.
“Our job with the a-tax money is to help promote things” that bring more visitors to the city, he said, adding that he wouldn’t have a problem considering some of the a-tax request.
Organizers say they also believe in giving back.
Full House Productions held a Carolina Country Music Fest Golf Classic at River Oaks Golf Plantation on Monday to benefit the band programs at Myrtle Beach middle and high schools. Proceeds were set to provide funding for new musical instruments.
The music fest requested a little more than $60,000 in in-kind services from the city last year.
“We ended up spending more than that because it took longer to clean up the site,” said City Manager John Pedersen.
Rhodes said it took the city about a week to clear all of the trash from the site last year and he said that issue will need to be addressed before this year’s event.