Field of Schemes

The deal Big League Dreams is offering gullible Clay County officials is a sucker's bet


After months in the shadows, Clay County's aspirations to lure a Big League Dreams franchise to Middleburg are finally getting the public scrutiny they so richly deserve. Last month, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced that it's investigating allegations that the Clay County Development Authority violated state open records and public meeting laws while negotiating a deal with the company to build a baseball-themed entertainment park.

Joe Riley, one of two Clay County residents who filed complaints with the FDLE last fall, has accused the county of negotiating with Big League Dreams outside of the Sunshine law. And indeed, last year the county commission asked one of its board members to privately hammer out a deal (though the county insists this is not illegal). You need only read the county auditor's report to realize why they'd want to keep the public in the dark: This is a sucker's bet, a sham that only the gullible could support.

The deal would work like this: Clay County would agree to build the facility, which the county estimated would cost $15 million but Michael T. Price, the auditor, says would more likely clock in around $25 million or higher. To pay for it, the county would use the projected leftovers from a road-construction bond it took out five years ago, as it can't secure bonds for the project without putting it to a public referendum. (Big League Dreams generously offered to lend the county the money to build Big League Dreams' facility, which the county would then pay back to Big League Dreams, with interest. For some reason, Price does not think this a wise move.) In exchange for this investment, the county would receive a portion of Big League Dreams' profits for the next 30 years.

A very small portion. Between 1997 and 2011, Big League Dreams paid out between $11 million and $16 million to its nine government partners, all of which are in the Southwest (the Middleburg deal is its first venture east of the Mississippi). Those governments had shelled out $219 million to build Big League Dreams' stadiums — meaning they've collectively recouped just 7 percent of their expenditures.

Big League Dreams has claimed that by building this facility Clay County will, with revenue-sharing and maintenance-fee savings, earn $24.4 million over the next three decades. This is fanciful at best. The revenue-sharing will bring in about $200,000 a year. The projected maintenance-fee savings make up the rest — $19 million — and they are as real as Rick Ross' thug gimmick.

"This representation is likely true if Big League Dreams were to take over management of an existing facility and agree to obligate itself for these costs," Price reports. "However, since we currently do not incur such costs, then maintenance savings is not a benefit to Clay County."

In less bureaucratic words, bullshit.

Which brings us to Big League Dreams' last promise: economic development. The company has promised the county that this facility will add $30 million in economic growth. Of course, under a best-case scenario, this will translate into only $150,000 in tax revenue. So for its $25 million investment, the county will get back only $350,000 a year; or, to put it another way, if everything goes right, the county will only lose $14.5 million.

"The payback period for this project would be between 75 and 125 years under the most optimistic conditions," Price told county commissioners.

What a deal.

The county could take that $13 million in projected leftover bond money and pave 17 miles of road or build needed drainage projects or fire stations or parks or a new library. Or it could give it to an out-of-state company. Tough choice.

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Amen and Amen! In addition to this story it MUST be stated that these BLD facilities (per their own data on their website) state the following for attendance by age and location for each of their parks...(demographics) Notice that there is not a "significant" attendance by KIDS as this park has been "sold" to the County and supporters of this project...

Paid Attendance:

Attendance by Park – 2010

Cathedral City – 185,395

Riverside – 276,690

Chino Hills – 282,935

Redding – 141,683

League City – 215,573

Manteca – 433,951

West Covina – 341,021

Mansfield – 181,196

Gilbert – 309,030

Las Vegas - 181,406

Total – 2,548,880


a. <18: 7% (That's right folks. only 7% of ALL attendees are under the age of 18 years old!)

b.18-25: 23%

c. 26-35: 45% ( AND HERE is the group that BLD parks "cater to" ...Beer and recreation!!!!

d. 36-45: 24%

e. >45: 2%

Enough said!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014|Report this


Thank you, Mr. Gancarski, for telling the public the truth about this project. There are still many citizens in Clay County who sincerely believe this is a project that will benefit all of Clay County's children because they have NOT been told the truth. Mr. Riley has done exhaustive research and this project will not only be of little benefit for our children, they will still be paying for it when they have children of their own. This is a money pit that will only benefit a few folks in the higher socio-economic end of the scale (a group of 20+ investors using tax payer money who refuse to disclose their names) while our public parks continue to deteriorate and become unsafe because the County doesn't have the funds to maintain and improve them. We would all like a great sports complex for our kids that would make ALL organized sports available to ALL children. If that is a viable idea, it can happen in a way that would benefit all citizens not just a few. The Big League Dreams project benefits a few at the expense of the greater good of many.. Wednesday, March 5, 2014|Report this