VB taxpayers made a profit off Something in the Water 2019, economist says

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Pharrell Williams’ alternative to College Beach Weekend paid for itself and then some, according to economists.

In a presentation in front of Virginia Beach City Council on Tuesday, Dr. Vinod Agarwal with Old Dominion University told council members that after 30 years of performing economic analysis, the Something in the Water festival provided several surprises.

“For a festival of this type that took 6 months of planning, that should have taken two years, I would expect the city would lose money the first year,” Agarwal said. “You actually made a profit.”

Agarwal figures the City took in roughly $285,000 that they wouldn’t have if the traditional College Beach Weekend had occurred.

Agarwal, along with the Rondald Berkebile with the city’s Strategic Growth Area office, came to the conclusion using info from 5,700 surveys from concertgoers to come up with an estimated tax impact on the city of $1.1 million.

Ironically, $1.1 million also happened to be what taxpayers spent to put on the event. Included in that figure are overtime costs and operating expenses for police, public works, fire, the HRT trolleys and the city’s sponsorship agreement.

The profit was found when Agarwal subtracted out the $259,000 that has historically been spent staffing College Beach Weekend.

“You know I think everyone was pleasantly surprised,” said Lyndon Remias, Virginia Beach’s City Auditor, who double checked the numbers.

Most large events turn a profit, according to the 2018 Resort Event Proforma estimates. In that year only the American Music Festival operated at a deficit of $144,000.

Tax money attributed to festivals at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront (City of VB)

The East Coast Surfing Championship generated the largest profit of $1.1 million, according to the document.

However the main difference between those events and Something in the Water is that the city gets 50 percent of its money back for police, public works and fire support.

If the same was true for Something of the Water, the net tax revenue would be increased by more than $300,000 off the bat, per the economic analysis.

A presentation included in a briefing to council members showed an event announcement for Something in the Water 2020 is slated for Oct. 14. A lineup is then expected to be released by Nov. 12, which is three days before tickets go on sale to the public.

The plans call for a a limited number of presale, 3-day general admission tickets being made available to Virginia locals and returning customers. Those tickets will be available online and at the Veterans United Home Loans Amphitheater on Oct. 19 from noon to 5 p.m.

Those announcements would come much earlier than they did for the inaugural festival — which saw an initial lineup released a little over two months ahead of time. That lineup then saw a number of additions, tweaks and details dropped in the proceeding weeks.

Tickets for the first festival went on sale in March, with early bird and VIP tickets promptly selling out.

Something in the Water was the brainchild of Virginia Beach native Pharrell Williams. The first year of the festival included Hampton Roads’ own Missy Elliott and Timbaland as well as a somewhat surprise guest appearance by Jay-Z.

The festival was widely lauded as a success by city leaders, local businesses and members of the public. 80 of around 1,600 people who responded to a poll stemming from a city-facilitated texting service said Something in the Water 2019 was “awesome.”

Something in the Water 2020 is expected to run from Monday, April 20 to Sunday, April 26, with the concerts slated for Friday through Sunday.

The report also said the festival should work on its communication in 2020, with more details sooner.

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