As we described on June 24, 2012, one of the compelling issues that led to the commencement of recall proceedings against several West Covina city council memberswas the ill-fated and ill-conceived Big League Dreams sports complex that now sits high above Azusa Ave., as a monument to big egos and financial irresponsibility.
Big League Dreams provides an impressive argument to cities, influencing city leaders to think with their hearts, ignoring their fiduciary relationships. How wonderful to provide the city’s youth and ball-playing adults with replicas of Dodger Stadium, Yankee Stadium, Wrigley Field, and the like, to enjoy, and to lure tournaments, business and social events, and tourist dollars to the city. Why, it would be a unique and compelling experience.
How unique and how compelling is a complex of replica stadiums when it is one of five in Southern California and one of nine within a few hundred miles?
West Covina documents show that the city must pay $91,000 per month – $1,092,000 per year – on the Big League Dreams obligations. Two extremely relevant related issues remain missing from any city documents and any public discussion: Exactly how much revenue is the city receiving and what collateral is at risk?
Estimates have surfaced the indicate that yearly revenue for the BLD Complex is in the area of $300,000 to $400,000. When pressed for specific information, city bureaucrats and the city council are silent or state, as they did at the last council meeting, that such information is privileged and will not be discussed. They did represent that a meeting would be set up where interested members of the public can ask questions and receive some answers. That meeting is still pending.
The history that Big League Dreams presents is troubling. City after city that was courted by the company has reported significant financial loss on its endeavor. The city of Redding, CA built a complex, and is now faced with revenue of less than one-half as represented that it would generate, and falling every year. In the bay area city of Hercules, population 24,000, bankruptcy now looms, after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in preliminary costs and licensing fees paid out in anticipation of a Big League Dreams complex.
In Oxnard, after an initial cost estimate of $27.2 Million in city-financed construction costs, and four years of preliminary work at a cost to the city in excess of $1 Million, city leaders became skeptical of representations that the complex would add $2 million per year to the city’s economy, the plan was scrapped last year.
At that time, Oxnard Parks Director Michael Henderson informed the Oxnard city council that the city could itself build a similar project at a significantly lower cost (several millions lower).
The town of Gilbert, AZ did build a Big League Dreams complex. There, the original cost estimate to the city was $22 Million, which turned into $40 Million by the time construction was complete. Well, a few short years later, the final cost to Gilbert is estimated to be $53 Million, fields are beset with decay and lack of use, and revenue is at $200,000 to $300,000 per year.
Estimates are it would take 250 years to break even.
Is this what we have to look forward to in West Covina? Is THIS what the City Council got us into?