Roar on the Shore looking to move back to downtown Erie

Local News

Erie’s Roar on the Shore motorcycle rally is looking to move the event back to downtown Erie in 2020.

The board of ROTS is negotiating with the City of Erie to come up with a cost structure to make that happen.

This comes after Roar on the Shore received mixed reviews on its rally at Lake Erie Speedway in July. While some liked the new spot, many bikers did not. And there were downtown businesses that lamented the loss of thousands of motorcycles and other visitors from the streets of downtown Erie for the 5 day rally.

Besides negotiating costs with the city, which was the issue that forced the rally out of the city for 2019, ROTS organizers are also proposing other changes that come after years of concern from some about things like the lack of local food vendors, and the closing of lower State Street.

In a letter to Mayor Joe Schember, the ROTS Executive Director Ralph Pontillo wrote:

We propose the following cost-cutting measures:

* Reduce the event from five days to three days — Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

  • Reduce the number of hours of operation to 25 hours throughout three days. Currently it is 42 hours throughout five days.
  • Move the mainstage to an off-street location to allow traffic flow from 5th Street to Dobbins Landing.
  • By reducing the hours of operation, we also can remove barriers from 7th Street on to reduce disruption to local businesses during the day.
  • Roar will increase private security to provide 24-hour coverage within the Hub.
  • Roar will prioritize local vendors, including food trucks that wish to participate. For example, if there is a cigar vendor in Erie and one from out of town, priority will go to the Erie vendor.
  • A significant number of bars and restaurants have complained that Roar is no longer downtown. Since these establishments benefit from Roar and also from security provided by EPD, each location will be asked to make a direct contribution (payment) to the city for police services during Roar. The major cost in your summary sheet is for $99,824 for police services or $25,000 per day. According to your records, you assign a total of 253 officers who work a total of 2,024 hours for a four-day, 42-hour event. Coverage by the EPD also is supported by the Pennsylvania State Police, Erie County Sheriff’s Office and our private security firm.

We consulted with Sturgis, Laconia and Daytona Beach motorcycle rallies and each said when considering the days, hours, coverage area and crowds, Roar is paying roughly 10 times the security cost of events that are four times the size of Roar. Also note that threat levels at these major rallies (500,000+ attendees) is five times greater than Roar’s and attract at least four “1%” motorcycle gangs per year, per event.

Based on Roar’s proposed cost reductions, cost eliminations and event changes (reducing event operational hours, increasing private security) we can reduce the cost to the city to $45,000 per year. Additionally, the city would collect the vendor licenses fees which totaled $22,000 this year. We believe local restaurants and bars will contribute to the city directly for event security cost.

The letter to the point some statistics regarding security at this summer’s event, which was handled largely off site by the Pa State Police. In the letter, Pontillo stated “The Pennsylvania State Police did a fantastic job this year. When asked about cost, their reply was “minimal” because they scheduled their officers during their normal working hours with absolutely no cost to the taxpayers. They were, however, busy with 423 traffic stops, 265 traffic citations and 17 DUI arrest. Not one of those has been attributed to Roar on the Shore. This is consistent with our event for the past 13 years. I also have attached the Pennsylvania State Police report for your viewing.

You have stated publicly you would like to have Roar on the Shore stay in downtown Erie but you will not burden the taxpayers by subsidizing the event. We agree and submit this plan to achieve your objective and return Roar to its original and appropriate location – downtown Erie.

Roar on the Shore Executive Director Ralph Pontillo was unavailable for additional comment.

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