SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — Between 10,000 and 20,000 more visitors are expected to party down this month compared with last year’s spring break festivities, South Padre Island spokeswoman Naida Robles said.
“We are expecting that it will be as good as it was last year or better simply because of different alerts about traveling out of the country,” she said. “And just the proximity and the value of being here on the Island, with so many activities for students, I think it’s just a good place to go.”
Spring Break 2013 officially began the season Friday with Texas Week as students from colleges statewide started making their way to the sand and surf.
Robles said an estimated 40,000 revelers descended on the Island in 2012, and travel warnings from the State Department advising people to avoid certain parts of Mexico could push that number up to 50,000 or even 60,000 this year.
To ensure community safety and a good time, the South Padre Island Police Department, along with the Department of Public Safety and other area law enforcement agencies, have been preparing for the influx of young people looking to wet their whistles and strut their stuff.
“We are working together and we’re going to have a lot of assistance with extra law enforcement,” Robles said. “We have this year license plate recognition technology at the bridge that will help us identify or limit the criminal element.”
Last year, Derrick Madrigal, 21, was on the Island for Spring Break and was stabbed nine times by several members of the Texas Mexican Mafia from San Antonio. Those men were arrested and some have been sentenced to prison.
“I think everything we do is based on improvements,” Robles said when asked if the technology was a response to the stabbing.
On average, 760,000 vehicles cross the Queen Isabella Memorial Bridge every March, according to information provided by Robles.
Law enforcement officials also will use watch towers this year.
“This year we’re going to have a couple around the entertainment district to help police have a better view and make sure the crowd is better monitored,” she said.
During Spring Break 2012, police responded to 3,172 calls, responded to 83 traffic accidents, generated 882 reports, issued 1,036 citations and put 603 people in jail, according to information provided by Robles.
Partying isn’t the only option, however. Other types of activities available to Spring Breakers include dune restorations and beach cleanups.
“There are different opportunities and groups that do participate,” Robles said. “With Beach Reach (a cleanup group) they really help with keeping the Island clean during this time. “We have a lot of people so we have a lot of students that volunteer and help our Public Works Department, who keep the beach clean.”
And while Spring Break is a time for students to let loose and relax, it’s definitely more work for people from the Island.
In March 2012, staff picked up nearly 70 tons of trash at a cost of nearly $6,000, she said.
Robles said it costs $10,000 in overtime pay for full-time Public Works Department employees who work during Spring Break and nearly an additional $10,000 in costs for part-time staffing.
The department has 19 full-time staffers and increases its part-time staff by 13 for a total of 32 part-timers during the season.
Despite the additional expense, Spring Break crowds benefit the local economy. In March 2012, the city generated nearly $275,000 in sales tax revenue. Hotel occupancy tax revenue for that same year was more than double at just a little more than $687,000.
So far this year, many of the Island’s hotels are doing well.
The Island’s 39 hotels that accept Spring Breakers on average are 85 percent full from March 10 through 16. The occupancy average for March 17-23 is 57 percent. The city’s hotel occupancy report indicates some properties’ percentages went down because of cancellations.
The data reflected don’t include new bookings.
But all in all it looks to be a busy Spring Break and Robles said the Island welcomes all visitors.
“I think it’s a very important event for the Island and we welcome students and encourage them to have fun safely,” she said. “But be aware of others and if you’re going to drink, drink responsibly and stay off the road.”
Mark Reagan is a staff writer at The Brownsville Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHAT TO DO
>> Through March 22, Inertia Parties with MTV DJs at Clayton’s Beach Bar & Grill, ticketed.
>> Through March 20, Inertia Pool Parties at Isla Grand Beach Resort, ticketed.
>> Through March 20, Coca-Cola Beach from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. at Isla Grand Beach Resort.
>> Today, Paris Hilton Spring Break Party at Clayton’s Beach Bar & Grill, ticketed event; doors open at 8 p.m.
>> Tuesday, moke Jumpers” Concert, ticketed event; doors open at 7 p.m. at Clayton’s Beach Bar & Grill.
>> Wednesday, UME Pre-Party (separate ticket from UME 3-day event) at Clayton’s Beach Bar & Grill from 2 p.m. until closing; estimated attendance is 3,000 people.
>> Thursday-Saturday, UME South Padre (3-day event) at Schlitterbahn Beach Waterpark; 8:30 p.m. show for three nights with gates opening at 7 p.m.; estimated attendance is 10,000 people.
>> Thursday, Randy Rogers Band at SPI Convention Centre, outdoors in the back with gates opening at 7 p.m.
SOURCE: City of South Padre Island