Sports authority wants to delay stadium deal | Local News

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While the proponents of a lease for Joplin’s baseball fields and stadiums say they intend to work with other organizations that book athletic events, the Joplin Sports Authority wants the Joplin City Council to put the deal on hold.

A proposed lease agreement by Parkwood Tournament Co., a local youth baseball promoter, is to be decided Monday by the council. It is listed on Monday’s agenda as an emergency ordinance, meaning that it could be passed on one vote rather than requiring second and third readings at a subsequent meeting.

“There are several concerns at this time from JSA, our partners and customers,” said Craig Hull, sports authority director.

He said the JSA board of directors voted at a meeting Wednesday to ask the council to table the lease request “to allow the JSA more time to develop a proposal” for the council to consider at a later date.

A main purpose of the JSA in booking sports events, including baseball, is to generate business for local hotels and restaurants, thus generating sales tax for the city from those activities.

The council will be asked to consider a lease of Joe Becker and Wendell Redden stadiums, Gabby Street Field and Bassman Softball Complex. The lease is proposed by Parkwood Tournament Co., a limited liability company, and supported by city staff.

Principals of the Parkwood company are Mike Greninger, Bobby Landis and Don Patty, according to city documents.

Under the contract, the city would be paid $55,000 a year to lease all of the fields. Payments would be split into monthly payments of $6,111.11 from February through October, with use extending through November.

The rights to Bassman Softball Complex would be limited to Friday through Sunday because the city programs recreational softball there during the week.

Greninger, a former director of the JSA who has worked in baseball promotion and hotel management since then, said the Parkwood partners intend to stage their tournaments, but they also plan to honor the commitments of the sports authority.

He said he believes that is a concern for the sports authority.

“We are going to work with the sports authority and the Joplin Outlaws. It only makes business sense,” Greninger said.

The Parkwood group will make money from the field rentals and concessions, “so we want people to be successful,” Greninger said.

“We are going to concentrate (booking events) on the nights when the fields are not being used and ways to make the facilities more user-friendly for all types of events,” Greninger said.

In regard to the mission of the JSA to provide business to hotels, “We’re not going to affect anything that generates room nights,” he said. “Again, we are going to try to make their event successful. There’s not a lot of tournaments Monday through Thursday, and we are going to work to fill those days, and in the offseason, we are going to try to find ways to use the facility.”

Mark Rains, manager of the Joplin Outlaws, said it does not matter to him whom he pays for use of the stadiums.

The contract specifies that the city will mow the fields and teach Parkwood staff to care for the turf on the stadium fields, but the maintenance and operations of the stands and buildings will go to Parkwood.

Greninger said another reason why the deal was offered is to help the city.

Joplin’s parks and recreation director, Paul Bloomberg, who oversees the city’s athletic fields, said “from an operations standpoint, this actually helps the athletic complex operation. We struggle with resources to properly maintain our parks the way we want them to be. This will help alleviate some of those areas. We will be able to reallocate staff and resources to other parks.”

Leslie Haase, the city’s finance director, said the city has been losing an average of $55,000 a year on the operation of the fields and stadiums. If this contract is approved, “the expenses will go away. We will see about $25,000 to $30,000 in revenue.”

Additionally, the city can reallocate the seasonal staff used at the ball fields and in the concession stands, so the city will save about $30,000 in staff costs that can be used for parks beautification.

“This is a business deal,” said Bloomberg. “We are trying to look at the best financial deal we can to provide services to the community.”

The city said Becker and Redden stadiums are intended to be rental assets for the city, although two previous attempts for that have been short-lived.

The city previously contracted with owners of the Joplin Blasters, a team of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball, to stage professional baseball in the stadium. The Blasters failed financially and pulled out in 2016. Joplin later inked a contract for professional baseball with a Texas-based promoter, Ventura Sports Group, but that organization pulled the plug in early 2019 when it could not get enough teams fielded.

The purpose of the emergency ordinance designation, according to the city documents, is so that the Parkwood can begin planning for next year’s season.

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