The SPI Convention and Visitors Advisory Board (CVA) discussed event permitting requirements, considered funding for events, as well as heard marketing and post-event reports in Nov. 30 meeting.
Advisory Board Chair Wally Jones brought forth an agenda item for discussion and possible action regarding the Beach Events Permit Requirements. Jones provided background information on the issue, including that the reason this item was on the agenda was a result of the mayor asking the Board to come up with a plan back in May 2016 meeting. Jones stated that he wanted to use the opportunity to open up a discussion with board members as well as with audience members regarding the issue.
“The attachment that we have to this agenda merely serves as an example for what some other community has done- and that would be Panama City Beach, Florida after the problems they had there,” said Jones regarding the sample Permit Requirements documents provided. “we took that and reviewed it, made some edits to it, and merely put it out there saying, ‘Listen, this is something we feel like that we can work with and edit further and be able to end up with a good product.”
“We’re charged with trying to get people here, and this seems to me a part of not getting people here. I’m all about having a schedule of fees for participation of the city, but this is about approval of events,” stated Board Member Jimmy Hawkins. He went on to make the point that most of SPI beach front availability is adjacent to private property, and that those proprietors should have the right to be able to run their facility. “I understand the safety aspect that it is the public beach, but I also know that these are businesses and we are charged in getting people here,” argued Hawkins.
“I don’t want to become a Panama City though, where because they didn’t have proper security, or it didn’t work, they had some incidents,” replied Board Member Bill Donahue. “I think that anybody putting on an event should have some requirements to make sure that happens,” he added.
SPI Police Chief Randy Smith spoke on the issue, as well, stating the need for being able to plan for big events. The Chief stated that most of the big events here every year have people in charge that network with his office very well. He added that the issue is with “pop-up” events that come to town and develop just days before the scheduled event. Smith stated that if these occur during a busy time like Spring Break where resources are already committed, then it can have issues.
SPI Development Services Director Dr. Sungman Kim provided the Board with information about the existing ordinance related to this issue. “That is not complete so far, so we don’t have any requirements per se about the security issues,” Kim said. “We need to develop our ordinance as soon as possible,” he emphasized.
The owner of Clayton’s Beach Bar spoke on the issue when the discussion was opened to the audience. He emphasized the importance of Spring Break revenues to Hotel Occupancy Tax collection, displaying a bar graph showing the dramatic rise in these revenues inn that month. He emphasized that the CVA are the ones that are actively advertising for spring breakers. “Don’t say, Oh no we want spring breakers, but we want to control it so much.” Panama City controlled it so much and lost $40 million in revenue,” he reminded them.
After much discussion, Jones emphasized that development of this ordinance should reside with the people that have the authority to enact such an ordinance. He went on to make a motion, which was approved by the Board, to recommend that City Council discuss the documents related to event permits with the objective of developing a comprehensive mass gathering ordinance for South Padre Island.
In other business, the Board approved a request for $25,000 to fund the Splash event that is scheduled for April 27-30, 2017. The approval was made contingent upon the promotor’s ability to land the potential artists listed on the request documents which include realty TV star and radio host Lance Bass as well as actress Ruby Rose.
The Atkins Group provided the Board with an overview of Spring Break and Winter Texan marketing efforts. Spring Break initiatives covered in the report included both collegiate as well as those targeting families. Other advertising campaigns highlighted in the report included a family leisure: Midwest/Canada as well as a campaign targeting Mexico.
The Board also heard post-event reports from the Wahoo fishing Tournament, Coastal Conservation Association-Take a Kid Fishing, Run the Jailbreak-SPI Marathon, and Open Water Planet.

-By Kevin Rich