Meeting The Latest Bidder (Revised - See below)
Yesterday I had the opportunity to spend a couple hours with two members of the Facilities Management West team, Guy Lemmon and Kathi Crowley, discussing their firm's participation in the quest to purchase the Orange County Fair and Event Center.
CITY PRESS RELEASE
Wednesday the City of Costa Mesa produced a press release outlining the current status of negotiations with Facilities Managment West. Here is the text of that press release:
Facilities Management West
May 25, 2010
Costa Mesa, California - City of Costa Mesa and Facilities Management West Move Forward on Public Ownership of Orange County Fair and Events Center
The City of Costa Mesa, through the Orange County Fairgrounds Authority, and Facilities Management West (FMW) are moving forward with efforts to secure from the State of California continued public ownership of the Orange County Fair and Events Center (OCFEC) and to meet the schedule set forth by State officials.
"We were encouraged by our joint meeting last Thursday in the Governor's office and are committed to achieve a signed purchase agreement with the State by June 7, and completing the purchase by September 30," said Allan Roeder, Costa Mesa City Manager. A long term lease agreement between FMW and the Fairgrounds Authority is being drafted. The agreement will be structured to achieve the City's and FMW's goal that the OCFEC continue in public ownership.
"We believe that under the proposed public ownership and lease operating structure, existing fair related facilities, venues and community uses can be retained and improved," commented Guy Lemmon, spokesman for FMW. "We are focused on how these many activities can be made more friendly, more modern and more efficient."
Lemmon said that it is the intention of FMW to:
• Maintain and enhance the existing equestrian uses and related community programming on the fairgrounds property;
• Retain Centennial Farms as a park-like use, operated to encourage even broader community use;
• Host the annual Orange County Fair and continue the 50 year tradition of celebrating arts, entertainment, crafts, community service and family fun;
• Preserve the Youth Expo and its widely praised educational, recreational, cultural and social development programs for children and youth;
• Honor and seek to extend existing agreements with surrounding property owners for reciprocal parking and other cooperative joint uses;
• Continue existing arrangements and understandings with the community with regard to functions, events, services and operations; and
• Give existing employees of the OCFEC priority consideration for retention by Ovations-Fanfare, which has been retained by FMW to assist in the operation of the fairgrounds.
Lemmon said that discussions between FMW and the City of Costa Mesa have produced ideas "we intend to explore for new uses of the fairground facilities", including:
• Creating a singe ticketing operation and other operational efficiencies for the OCFEC;
• Expanding the use of the Pacific Amphitheater with improved marketing and booking strategies while remaining a good neighbor to surrounding residents;
• Expanding the use of the facility as an Exposition Center by increasing the number and length of events beyond what now exist;
• Establishing an advisory group of individuals with strong community and OCFEC connections to offer suggestions and counsel to the FMW organization; and
• Operating complementary facilities for the exposition functions and expanded food and beverage facilities.
Lemmon explained that FMW - under the anticipated terms of the long term lease with the Fairgrounds Authority - will retain Ovations-Fanfare to assist FMW in the operations of the fairgrounds and related activities. "Ovations-Fanfare is already well grounded in the real life, day to day operations of the fair as a result of its 15 year history of providing food and beverage services there," Lemmon said.
Ovations-Fanfare operates nine fair facilities in the state of California - including Cal Expo - and has more than 20 years experience in the fair and exposition business. Ovations-Fanfare is a subsidiary of Comcast-Spectacor, a national entertainment and event management firm.
Lemmon noted that FMW decided to compete for the fairground operations package submitted to bidders by the City of Costa Mesa because OCFEC represents the kind of long term investment favored by FMW's president, Ken E. Fait, a long time resident of Costa Mesa and Newport Beach. Additionally, he said, the Fait family and local individuals it brought into the proposal share a genuine affection for the fair and its connection to the county's agrarian roots.
The Fait Family Trust, owned by Ken E. Fait and other members of the Fait family, is a diversified investment firm with interests in numerous companies, including energy, commercial real estate, mobile home communities, engineering, computer software and a cattle operation.
The FMW investment team includes the Fait Family Trust, Richard Dick and David Pyle. Richard Dick, a Costa Mesa resident, has developed a number of successful retail and residential properties throughout Southern California in the past 40 years. Raised on a farm in Illinois, at the beginning of his career he sold agricultural products, kindling a lifelong passion for agriculture and local fairs.
David A. Pyle was also invited by the Fait family to join the proposing team. For more than three decades, Mr. Pyle has been a leader and innovator in the private, postsecondary education community. He is the owner of American Career College and West Coast University with corporate offices in Costa Mesa serving over 7,000 students on six campuses. both schools are health care educators with campuses located in southern California. Pyle is another longtime Orange County resident since his parents bought a home on Balboa Island in 1960. he supports a number of community based education and health care organizations including; the Orangewood Children Foundation's, Kidworks in Santa Ana, Hoag Hospital Marion Knott School of Nursing and "Circle 1000", Newport Heights Elementary School Foundation and Newport Harbor High School Foundation.
"We are honored to have been selected by the City as its partner in the monumental effort to secure continued public ownership of the fairgrounds," Lemmon said. "We are committed to achieving the schedule set by the State and look forward to concluding the process in a positive fashion."
NEW TIGHT TIMETABLE
Perhaps the biggest news from that press release is that the City representatives along with folks from Facilities Management West will, once again, travel to Sacramento on June 7th to achieve a signed purchase agreement with the State.
LATE ADDED STARTER
You may recall that Facilities Management West was a late starter in this process. Although one of the original bidders in what may have been the shortest auction in the history of auctions, they were ranked second to American Fairs and Festivals when the City decided to seek partners to purchase the Fairgrounds. Negotiations with American Fairs and Festivals fell apart - some speculate it was because the City couldn't arrive at a satisfactory financial agreement with them.
In any event, in a curiously abrupt addition to the agenda for a closed session meeting, Facilities Management West was added to the mix and, at the closed session, was selected as the exclusive bidder with whom the City would move forward.
PRESS RELEASE HAS OUTLINE
The press release clearly outlines the major pieces of Facilities Management West's proposal, which now includes a public ownership element that was missing previously and may have been the reason they were ranked second. Those were re-emphasized by Lemmon and Crowley during our conversation.
FINANCIAL DETAILS UNAVAILABLE
No details of their offer are available at this time. We hope the City will release some of the particulars, as they did with the American Fairs and Festivals proposal, in the very near future. The press release indicates that City officials hope to complete the sale by September 30th. When I mentioned to Lemmon that closing the deal at that late date is going to create big problems re-signing contracts with existing tenants, all of which expire November 1st, he agreed and expressed hope that the deal could be consummated well before that date.
OUR "CONSULTANTS" DID WELL
During our conversation Lemmon volunteered that the City's recently added consultants, Jim Righeimer, David Ball and Rick Kapko, were excellent additions to the team. He felt they had the City's best interests at heart and asked some tough but fair questions.
MICKADEIT'S PART ONE
I apparently was part of a community outreach effort because yesterday Lemmon met with Orange County Register columnist Frank Mickadeit. The first of his two-part report can be read HERE.
I LEFT ENCOURAGED
I left my meeting with the folks from Facilities Management West encouraged by their enthusiasm and their plans as outlined in the press release. Of course, much needs to be done in the week that remains before the next trip to Sacramento. The proof will be in the deal...
MANSOOR VIDEO EXPLANATION
In the meantime, there lingers the bitter after taste of Mayor Allan Mansoor's recent "Rule of Law City" resolution. This resolution, which he explained in detail to the Orange County Register in this video clip, has caused a firestorm of controversy.
ANGRY RUMBLINGS BEING HEARD
I continue to hear rumblings, some of them from highly placed individuals in state government, that this resolution - clearly a ploy to grab the campaign spotlight with an incendiary issue - has so rankled Latino members of the legislature that there is strong consideration being given to punishing the City of Costa Mesa by not permitting the sale of the Fairgrounds to go through. It seems very likely to me that, if they chose to block the sale, there's not much that could stop them. The legislature is Democrat-controlled, so it would be easy for them to simply lock the essential bill into committee, effectively quashing it. They wouldn't even have to put it to a vote.
BREAKING NEWS: At 2:35 Thursday the Orange County Register posted an article, HERE, that confirms the above apprehension.
WE HOPE GOOD JUDGMENT PREVAILS
One would hope that the legislators wouldn't let one stupid, opportunistic, partisan political move by our mayor - one that really changes nothing in our city - cloud their judgment when it comes to the Fairground sale. The City of Costa Mesa, State representatives and bidders have all spent countless hours crafting an acceptable bid that could perpetuate the historical and cultural icon that is the Orange County Fair and Event Center into the future. It would be a shame to have partisan pique block the sale.
WAITING AND HOPING
I guess we can only sit and wait, hoping that the City and Facilities Management West can hammer out a deal and present it on June 7th, that the State finds it acceptable and that the legislature will do it's part and process the necessary legislation with dispatch.