A big league decision
Oxnard officials weigh the future of sports park
By Shane Cohn 02/03/2011
By the time pitchers and catchers report to spring training, the city of Oxnard may have big league dreams of its own.
Back in 2007, the City Council voted 4-1 in favor of bringing Big League Dreams (BLD), a Chino-based company that builds Little League fields as replicas of famous ball stadiums, to run its business on about 22 acres of Oxnard’s 75-acre College Park. BLD was to run and maintain the complex, with the city financing the construction, about $27.2 million, according to past reports.
During that time, Mayor Holden and Councilman Tim Flynn served on the council, with Flynn casting the lone dissenting vote. Flynn is still adamantly opposed to the project.
“This is not a good deal for the city,” Flynn said. “There are lots of other things to do with that money . . . It’s public money that would be purchasing this, and then the private sector profiting.”
College Park has been undergoing a tremendous face-lift, with soccer fields, basketball courts, volleyball courts, a dog park and other facilities already in place. The BLD build-out was supposed to be the final phase of the park plan.
But ever since the city entered into an agreement with the company, the proposal has been a heavily debated issue, drawing concern from citizens about the cost of the project and what effects the facility would have on the community, delaying the project.
Recently, the City Council brought the project’s contract extension dialogue to the table as it is set to expire next month.
Parks Director Michael Henderson, however, was unable to provide the council last week with details about how much the city has already paid the company, and exactly how much it would cost to go forward with the plans.
Public records show that the city initially paid the company $400,000 for a licensing fee, and was scheduled to pay millions in consulting fees.
“I was really shocked to hear that there was still an active contract,” said Shirley Godwin, Saviers Road Design Team. “We assumed that they (the city) were no longer paying Big League Dreams.”
Back when the council entered into an agreement with BLD, the idea was that the city would save $125,000 to $500,000 a year because the company would foot the bill for the park’s operational costs.
A 2007 consultant report costing $293,500 showed that softball and baseball tournaments at the BLD facility would generate an estimated $2 million a year for the city’s economy, the report says.
But the maintenance and operations agreement between the city and the company show that the city wouldn’t receive any operational fees until Big League Dreams was in its fourth full operating year, only provided the annual revenue exceeded $3 million. Based on calculations provided in the agreement, if gross revenues for the fourth full operating year totaled $3.6 million, BLD would pay the city $193,602. A percentage of sales, including alcohol, would also be given to the city. The project would also cost $5 million more than if the city built and ran the facility.
Considering the millions already given to BLD and the potentially slow revenue return when it is finally up and running, detractors of the plan see it best for the city to cut losses while it can.
“We need to get our money back instead of extending this contract,” said resident Martin Jones. “Big League Dreams, in my view, is a fraud and a scam.”
“We want a park, not a commercial operation surrounded by a sports bar,” Godwin said.
BLD did not return phone calls for comment.
The proposal is to build a five-field sports complex with a stadium club, restaurant and bar. The stadium club is a full-service bar, and in other BLD fields throughout California, Texas and Nevada, alcohol advertisements are clearly visible. Though the fields are designed to accommodate national tournaments, youth sports and adult slow pitch softball, both Flynn and Godwin agree that BLD is not an organization that caters to children and that, ultimately, alcohol should have no place in Oxnard’s parks.
“This is being portrayed as youth-oriented, but profit comes from adult play,” said Flynn. “The money is from adults and beer sales.”
Though Mayor Holden supported BLD in the past, he recently said that current cost information needs to be accurately presented by city staff before the council can move forward toward a decision on the contract extension.