By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Time is running out for the antiquated scoreboard at Ocean City High School’s Carey Stadium.
The city is expediting plans to replace it with a new high-tech scoreboard that will include features allowing it to be used not just for sports, but also for concerts, movies and other special events. The estimated cost is $2 million.
“This (scoreboard) could be customized for all Ocean City High School sports and all youth programs in the city,” City Business Administrator George Savastano said. “It could also support non-sports events, like graduation or outdoor concerts. It could also be used for new programs, like movie night or even something like a Phillies playoff watch party for the entire community.”
Savastano gave a report on plans to replace the old Carey Stadium scoreboard during a City Council meeting Thursday night. He noted that the scoreboard has reached “the end of its useful life.”
“It’s failed at multiple events, including some of the sold-out fall football showcases where organizers were paying for the use of the field,” he said.
Savastano noted that the city wants to fast track plans to get the funding approved for a new scoreboard in November. Council must give its approval for a funding ordinance.
“This is a substantial project and investment. It’s on the order of $2 million,” Savastano said. “The good news is, there is an excellent opportunity for us to benefit from advertising revenue from the scoreboard that could potentially pay this off in under 10 years.”
The new scoreboard would have screens on both the Carey Stadium side and facing the Boardwalk, creating new advertising opportunities and revenue sources for the city.
Assuming there are no delays with the funding plan, a contract for a new scoreboard could be approved by the end of the year. The scoreboard would be ready by next year and would complement the city’s plans for new bleachers at Carey Stadium in 2023, Savastano said.
“Because of the condition of the existing scoreboard, we’re looking to advance this project relatively quickly,” he said.
Carey Stadium serves as the main venue for Ocean City High School’s sports program, including the football games. The city is looking to spruce it up to make it even more of an attraction for teams and fans. There are also plans to attract more special events.
Over the last two years, Carey Stadium has hosted some of the top high school football teams in the region in the “Battle of the Beach” showcase.
The stadium complex is also rented out by some college athletic programs for their workouts, including Villanova University’s football team. Mayor Jay Gillian has repeatedly expressed his hope that even more college teams will use Carey Stadium and the adjacent Sports & Civic Center to produce additional rental revenue for the city.
The Council members indicated their support for a new scoreboard after Savastano outlined the project. More details about the project are expected when the funding ordinance is introduced at the Nov. 3 Council meeting. A public hearing and final vote on the ordinance are expected at the Nov. 17 Council meeting.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Council President Pete Madden said of the project in comments echoed by other members of the governing body.
Noting its location next to the beach and ocean, Councilman Terry Crowley Jr. called Carey Stadium “the nicest field in New Jersey.”
“I think we should have the nicest amenities surrounding the field,” Crowley said, emphasizing his support for a new scoreboard.
“I think it’s a bonus for the city,” Councilman Tony Polcini added.
Councilwoman Karen Bergman said she sees no downside with having a new scoreboard. She believes it will help to boost tourism to the city by drawing new events and more visitors.
“It’s a different, new way to attract people to Ocean City, especially in the off-season,” she said.
Councilman Tom Rotondi said he will wait until the upcoming meetings to ask a “ton of questions” about the licensing fees, advertising opportunities and operation of the new scoreboard.
Councilman Jody Levchuk called the new scoreboard a “tremendous upgrade” for Carey Stadium. However, he also wants to explore the possibility of legalizing similar signs with digital technology and LED lighting at businesses on the Boardwalk.
Under Ocean City’s existing zoning laws, digital signs are only allowed on city property. They are prohibited at commercial businesses, City Solicitor Dorothy McCrosson said.
Levchuk, whose family owns the Jilly’s stores and amusements on the Boardwalk, called it “highly unfair” for just the city to have the right to install digital signs.