Friday, February 10, 2012

TeWinkle Park Athletic Complex Task Force

I paid a visit to the February meeting of the TeWinkle Park Sports Complex Task Force last night. It started on time, ran crisply and finished on time. It seemed very productive. Chairman of the group, Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation Commissioner Dean Abernathy, ran a good meeting. I was a little worried when Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman Jeff Mathews showed up
a little late, because we already had Abernathy, plus commissioners Ethan Temianka and Kim Pederson in attendance - which already made a quorum. I'm not sure if we had a Brown Act violation or not. Only Abernathy and Temianka participated in the discussions. Mathews stayed a few minutes and left. Mayor Gary Monahan, who had the idea for this concept originally, is the liaison from the City Council and was in attendance. He helped Abernathy guide the discussion.

Representatives from various user groups with vested interests in this project formed part of the Task Force and were active participants, as were the many community members, too. Interim Director of Public Services Ernesto Munoz headed the city staff team that included Parks Project Manager Bart Mejia and Recreation Supervisor Lisa McPherson.


The focus of the meeting was a presentation by Jeff Hopkins, a
representative from Big League Dreams, one of the vendors who bid on taking over the TeWinkle Sports Complex. The precise nature of this relationship is just a little murky. Hopkins operated like their bid was in the bag, but as far as I know the City Council has not officially selected a bidder to run the complex. I know they chose Big League Dreams to be part of the Task Force, to have a representative of that industry aboard to help guide the discussion.

The im
age at the top of the page is from Google Earth today, the TeWinkle Park Sports Complex has four ball fields - three smaller ones and one large, major-league size field.

Looking at this image, taken from the PowerPoint presentation last night, the fields are numbered 1-4, with #1 being the smaller one at the lower left and moving clockwise, with #4 being the big field at the lower right. Hopkins plan would remove #1 completely to make way for a total of over 200 parking spaces, including the existing spaces shown at the bottom. At the right field line area of that field there would be batting cages. In the center, where all four fields intersect, there would be a concession stand. The current stand is 1200 square feet. The new one would be 4200 square feet, and would overlay the existing stand. At approximately where the infield of #1 is located would be a tot lot or some similar amenity.


A significant amount of ti
me was spent addressing concerns about trading an active, relatively new, field for more parking spaces. Hopkins assured the Task Force that the complex would be much more efficiently utilized with his plan. Several members seemed unconvinced, but patiently listened and asked good questions. Personally, I need to hear more of the specifics of their scheduling schemes to be convinced that, in a city where we've been told for years that we are very short of playing fields for our youth, reducing the actual playing surfaces by 25% makes sense.

The concession stand would serve the
usual baseball fare - hot dogs, pizza, peanuts, soft drinks, etc. It would also serve beer and wine when appropriate. That element generated a lot of discussion by the members of the Task Force and other guests. They were assured that alcoholic beverages would only be served when children were not playing at the complex. That claim was met with skepticism by more than one participant. One guest expressed concern about alcohol being served in such close proximity to a school - the Davis Magnet School is immediately adjacent to the left on the photo - and wondered if it is legal. City staff will research that issue.

Hopkins assured the gr
oup that this was not a "privatization" of a City facility. He told us that, except for times when the gates would be closed during actual scheduled events, the sports complex would be open and available for residents to walk through, play catch and bat some balls on the fields and generally enjoy it as they would any other city park.


His company specializes in making each field a "theme" field. One might be a replica of Fenway Park in Boston, another like Wrigley Field in Chicago and another like Angel's Stadium. It
would be a "for profit" venue, with them making the profit. He told us that at most of their other municipal venues they pay the city a "rights fee". He wouldn't be more specific.

At the end it was decided that Hopkins will come back at the next meeting with Plans B, C and maybe D. Some of those would include using all four of the existing fields, which will require resolving the parking issues. Options that might be investigated include an agreement to use parking at Davis School and Presidio, at the top of the photo, and, perhaps, working out an arrangement with the folks at the Fairgrounds to utilize some of their parking during non-Fair times of the year.


I'm both encouraged and a little concerned. The Task Force seems focused and able to do the job. I'm concerned about the relationship with Big League Dreams versus the other two ve
ndors. And, I'm very concerned about the lack of public noticing of these meetings. It took a lot of arm-wrestling to finally get the City to place it on the web site in the roster of upcoming meetings last week. Last night, beyond the city staff and members of the Task Force and alternates, there were only a handful of members of the public in attendance. This is a very important issue, particularly to residents of Mesa Del Mar, so I expected there to be a bigger turnout of residents from that neighborhood. The next meeting is in a month, on March 8th, so maybe we'll see more members of the community at that one.

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Anonymous Furshlugginer said...

Members should be pretty apprehensive about losing a field. While the complex might have more total utilization, that would come from having much more intensive use for adult leagues (where the money is) and tournaments (where the money is). Local youth leagues would end up with less capacity because they don't generate the revenue and profit. And the cost would become much higher for locals, as their families have to pay admission, cannot bring their own snacks, and cannot generate revenue from snack bars.

2/10/2012 03:03:00 AM  
Anonymous Play Ball said...

Thanks to those in the City for making this happen.

Ignore those that create the drama

2/10/2012 11:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Playing Ball said...

Thanks for the thorough report, Geoff. I agree with Play Ball - this is a good thing that should be encouraged. I also agree that more easily accessible public meeting infor is needed for better public involvement.

2/10/2012 12:00:00 PM  
Anonymous mensinger 1,kids nothing said...

less fields makes for less access.
When the leagues come in, the kids will suffer. The fees charged will be waived and or given to costa mesa united( the 10k voted on by the council).
The Costa mesa fields will quickly be "booked" by outside entities.
Play ball will not be kids little leage. It will be come a mensinger drink and play.

2/10/2012 03:07:00 PM  
Blogger Gericault said...

Recent article from five days ago....

Redding's Big League Dreams, a complex that cost taxpayers $15.8 million and was expected to have a significant impact on tourism and pour ongoing revenue into city coffers, has come up well short of its vision.
The complex, which surpassed projections the first two years in operation, now has suffered its fifth straight year of declining revenue.

2/10/2012 04:36:00 PM  
Blogger Gericault said...

and this is the big mess in Gilbert Arizona......

2/10/2012 04:43:00 PM  
Blogger Gericault said...

2/10/2012 04:45:00 PM  
Blogger Gericault said...

there's more......

2/10/2012 04:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Cherry pickin' said...


Do you even read what you post? The same article you posted to cite problems with Big League says that - "Of 11 facilities Big League Dreams operates in California, Arizona, Nevada and Texas, the Redding complex is the only one to see a decline in revenue."

It also states that there are outside factors that impacted the original 2001 projections -

Those closely involved with the complex say a combination of factors is contributing, including the lingering Great Recession and the 2006 opening of Big League Dreams USA's sister park in Manteca, which is flourishing in part by attracting teams from the Bay Area and Sacramento that might otherwise play in Redding.

"Big League Dreams had lofty goals that were based on the high economy, and it wasn't going to last," Redding City Council member Patrick Jones said. "We weren't planning for a rainy day. We were living in a bubble with no regard to when the economy would decline and made assumptions that simply weren't going to come true."

Current councilman quoted:

Jones now criticizes city leaders for expecting the economic good times of 2001 to continue and accepting overly optimistic projections.

Gilbert, AZ BLD was $53 million, and Gilbert has been hit unbelievably hard by the housing crash, any comparison to Costa Mesa is just wrong.

2/10/2012 05:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Mike M said...

Has anyone been to one of these? I attended a corporate event at the one in Palm Springs, and it was just kind of run down and dirty. A cool idea, but not worth it in the end. But hey, someone's gonna make money, right?

2/10/2012 05:42:00 PM  

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