VB councilman proposes increasing city’s Something in the Water contribution to about $900K

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Councilman Aaron Rouse has proposed increasing the city’s contribution to the second Something in the Water festival.

For the better part of a year, Virginia Beach City Council has set aside $250,000 to sponsor another installment of the festival.

Just like the inaugural year, the sponsorship agreement also includes the free use of the Convention Center, resort stages, police, fire, public works, Hampton Roads Transit Oceanfront trolleys and public parking lots for crews and ride-sharing.

Council is scheduled to vote on the agreement Tuesday.

Rouse has put forward an alternative sponsorship agreement that would allow the festival to receive the admissions taxes it generates, instead of the fixed amount.

City code subjects “event promoters” to a 10-percent tax on their admission sales. Last year, economists calculated the festival produced $750,000 in admissions tax.

Rouse’s resolution would call for an estimated $900,000 to be set aside from the Tourism Investment Fund. However, the money Something in the Water, LLC ultimately gets could be more or less.

“In order to create that strong partnership going forward and creating that new source of revenue we want to reinvest in this festival,” Rouse said.

Rouse is the council liaison to the mega-festival, which is the brainchild of superstar and Beach native Pharrell Williams. The festival is scheduled to run April 20 to 26, and is planned to be larger than last year’s.

Originally designed to help erase the negative stigma of College Beach Weekend, economists concluded that the event actually delivered taxpayers a slight profit and provided national positive exposure.

Councilman John Moss has already come out against Rouse’s idea for additional funding.

“We have not discussed this as a body, and even if we did, I wouldn’t support it,” Moss said. “$250,000 is enough.”

Moss, who frequently criticizes the use of public-private partnerships, says the taxpayers would rather have admissions revenues go toward flooding projects.

Rouse believes the new revenue produced from the festival’s national impact will accomplish that goal.

“This festival puts a spotlight on Virginia Beach. Making us a main attraction for hopefully new residents that want to come live here, but also businesses that call Virginia Beach home. That is an opportunity we cannot buy, we cannot afford,” Rouse said.

Rouse pointed to an analysis done by City Auditor Lyndon Remias, that estimated the city reaped upwards of $40 million in free advertising.

The 2020 festival will run longer than the 2019 version. Performances will happen Friday through Sunday, with artists like H.E.R., Beck, Post Malone and the Foo Fighters. However, there will be activities and theme days earlier in the week.

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