Boat show leases may be changed

Many question why Annapolis is considering new proposals

November 30, 2008|By Chris Guy | Chris Guy,chris.guy@baltsun.com

In Annapolis, a city that values its history and guards its tradition, officials are taking a close look at lease proposals for the annual sail and power boat shows.

These plans packed City Hall last week with maritime merchants and others in the industry who turned out mostly to ask why anyone wants to tinker with success.

One proposal comes from Ed Hartman, the 81-year-old guru of the boat shows who has been running the City Dock bashes every October for three decades. He wants to add a fifth year to his current four-year lease that would stretch his reign to 2014, a deal he says offers stability for the fall events.

The other offer comes from a new company, City Dock Productions LLC, operated by Jim Barthold and Tim Dowling, who want to pick up leases for the boat shows, beginning in 2013. Sweetening the deal, according to Barthold, a former employee of Hartman's company, is a pledge to boost the city's share of the proceeds by $125,000.

Annapolis Mayor Ellen O. Moyer and several city aldermen apparently are already supporting Hartman's bid for a lease extension.

"The boat shows have brought fame to this city and put us on the map internationally," Moyer said. "The shows have produced a lot of money for Annapolis for an awfully long time."

In recent years, the shows have generated as much as $51 million a year and attracted 100,000 visitors for the extravaganzas, according to a 2005 economic study.

Hartman wants to extend his lease at its current $375,000, about $125,000 less than City Dock Productions is offering.

"We had 18 exhibitors who wrote letters in support, and groups like the Maryland Marine Trades Association," Hartman said. "For the last three years, the gate receipts have increased. And the city gets half of that. Last year, the city got $621,000, more than $30,000 for sewage fees and for other city services. I think we need stability if we're going to keep up the kind of event people have come to expect."

For his part, Barthold said a change in five years would not disrupt continuity that has given the shows a reputation in the industry.

"We want people to know we've been around these shows for years and years," Barthold said. "We have the experience to do the shows right, and we're offering a better deal for the city."

Alderman Richard Israel, a Democrat who represents much of the city's historic district, said that considering Hartman's age, he wants the city council to have final approval over any transfer of the leases.

"I've put this delicately, but it's something to be considered," Israel said. "I think that clause ought to be revised to be sure we have control over any change in the company operating for that many years under these leases."

The city council's economic matters committee is set for a public session on Dec. 9.

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