The Porterville Chamber of Commerce will host a drive-in movie night on April 24 at the Sports Complex with the movie beginning at dusk. The chamber had requested the use of the Sports Complex for a series of drive-in movie events, but the Council decided it was best to test out the event for one night before moving forward and approving the remaining requested dates.

Maria Bemis, the city’s finance director, introduced the request to the dais at Tuesday night’s meeting. Bemis explained the Chamber of Commerce had requested the approval of the drive-in movie nights to take place every fourth Saturday of the month at the Sports Complex from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. The chamber requested to host the event through August.

The chamber submitted plans for the event to the city which included exclusive use of the east side parking lot at the Sports Complex, which would allow for up to 150 vehicles to be admitted per event. The chamber also plans to charge $25 per vehicle for admittance into the movie night.

The event request was taken to the city’s COVID-19 Ad Hoc Committee where it was reviewed and approved for Council discussion, prior to Tuesday’s meeting.

City manager John Lollis informed the Council that there are and will be other activities occurring at the Sports Complex, but that this particular event is anticipated to be an evening event. He said that there still may be some conflict with other activities and accommodation for patrons and visitors not attending the event may be required for everything to work.

Vice Mayor Martha Flores began the dais’ discussion of the item by asking for any activities that may overlap with the chamber’s event.

“It is very difficult when you have activities that are already planned at the Sports Complex to have another event come right behind it,” said Flores.

Lollis stated that Flores’ question may be hard to answer as different city-run leagues are starting up again soon.

Jason Ridenour, an community development department employee, said that any sporting activities should be wrapping up around the time that the movie night would start. Ridenour shared his concerns with families that use the play equipment located very close to the complex’s parking lot, and his concerns with parking lot access once the drive-in movie event starts. Another issue that the Council said the chamber may have some trouble with is patrons being dropped off and walking in to the event.

Flores expressed her own worries about the proposed restroom sanitation times. Part of the chamber's proposal included a plan to clean and sanitize the restrooms every 15 minutes. Flores questioned if there would be enough volunteers on-site to successfully fulfill the proposed cleaning times. Flores went on to say the map provided by the chamber depicting where cars will be when parked may make it difficult for others to see the showings depending on the size and height of each vehicle and how many patrons will be in the vehicles.

Councilman Daniel Penaloza said he appreciated the chamber’s efforts in bringing the event to the community and thinks it’s a great idea, but that there are lots of logistics that need to be figured out. Penaloza stated he wasn’t sure if the location for the event is right as the whole parking lot would have to be shut down and that it may be difficult to keep the event private when it would be happening while the park is still open to the public. He suggested a different layout for the parking lot or a moving the event to a different location.

Councilman Milt Stowe questioned the time frame proposed by the chamber and why they requested use of the parking lot beginning at 4 p.m. He said that daylight savings time will have people using the park until dark and maybe later. Stowe said it will be difficult for the chamber to charge for entrance to the movie due to public use of the park at the same times as those proposed.

Councilwoman Kellie Carrillo said the biggest issue for her is safety and that there may be an issue with the transition period of getting patrons in and out of the park as other scheduled events take place. Carrillo recommended the Council approve the event for April 24 and see how it works out.

Flores said that she wants to be supportive of the event, but still has concerns about the amount of vehicles, but agreed with Carrillo’s recommendation of approving the April 24 event date.

To clear up any concerns or questions the Council had, Porterville Chamber of Commerce CEO Jessica Brackeen entered the conversation. Stowe asked Brackeen how the chamber will determine which vehicles are at the Sports Complex for the event versus other vehicles that are not there for the event. Brackeen said she requested a start time of 4 p.m. in order for the chamber to set-up their equipment and place cones in the complex’s entrance and parking lot allowing people to go out without coming back in. This would allow the chamber to filter vehicles as they arrive, making sure they are only charging the vehicles that are coming in for the event. She said that patrons who are not there for the event can park in other places near or at the park and walk to their destinations.

Brackeen addressed Flores’ concerns about the cleaning of the restrooms and said that she will be in charge of all the volunteers and will make sure that COVID guidelines are being followed.

Ultimately, the dais ran with Carrillo’s idea of allowing the event to only be held on April 24 and approved the Chamber’s drive-thru movie night with a vote of 4-0. If the event goes well, the Council may choose to approve the remaining dates.

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