PBG Public Exposition on Concepts for Baseball Stadium

There has been criticism in the recent past that the baseball stadium proposal for the Gardens off Central Boulevard was on a fast track for approval before the public had been informed. Judging by the public exposition yesterday at the Doubletree Hotel, the city is doing its part to open up the process for public scrutiny and comment, and the criticism may be premature.

According to the Palm Beach Post, about 300 residents showed up to “kick the tires” on ideas for developing currently vacant county land near Watson Duncan Middle School and the Gardens Tennis Center into a spring training facility for the Houston Astros and Toronto BlueJays.

A room had been setup with about 6 “stations” giving information about baseball in Florida, economic impact to the area, the site plan, roads impact, financing, and the process to come (most of which is “TBD”). Much of the information had been discussed prior to the meeting, but the site plan pictures were new. What we gleaned from about an hour perusing the exhibits and talking with City Manager Ron Ferris and others was:

  • The facility is needed to provide a “critical mass” for baseball in southeast Florida and prevent the loss of teams currently using county-owned Roger Dean stadium in Jupiter.
  • Economic activity resulting from the facility (eg. hotel rooms, restaurants, etc.) is estimated at $80-$100M per year (Roger Dean is said to account for $56M.)
  • The site plan includes the stadium in the northeast corner adjacent to I95, practice fields west and southeast, and a grassy parking area that would be used for athletic fields in the off season. All of the space is utilized and the plan would take advantage of the “25% set-aside” waiver for public development that was passed by the Council recently.
  • Spring training lasts 6 weeks. During the rest of the year, the facility could be used for semi-pro teams, public events, and other Gardens athletic programs.
  • Construction financing, estimated at $100M, would come from the state ($50M already set aside for this purpose by the legislature) and county bed tax receipts. Allocation of the bed tax is too complex to describe here, but it is useful to know that the two largest consumers of bed tax dollars are the debt service for the county convention center and Roger Dean Stadium. The Roger Dean bonds will be paid off by 2016, and the new stadium would be funded from the new dollars that are then available.
  • The city plans to buy the land from the county (it already owns part of the footprint) in any case. An appraisal has not yet been completed.
  • We asked what developers have expressed interest in the project but no names were forthcoming. There would be a competitive bidding process if the time comes.
  • The city plans to own and operate the facility (either directly, with city employees) or through a concessionaire. The teams would play some role in that. Operational financing was only discussed in vague terms. It is our understanding that Roger Dean operates at a profit and requires no subsidy from the county other than debt service on the construction bonds (a pleasant contrast to the convention center which consistently loses money). When asked how the Gardens facility operational model would compare with Roger Dean, no one we spoke with knew enough about the Jupiter facility to answer.

Before forming an opinion whether the construction of the stadium is a good deal for Palm Beach Gardens, we would have to know a great deal more about the financing, including the operational business plan, future revenue projections, city liability for losses, agreement with the teams to stay in the Gardens for the forseeable future, etc. Concerns with the residents in close proximity to the facility about noise and traffic would also have to be addressed. But as a public relations campaign begins to educate and get buy-in from Gardens citizens, we thought the event was successful and that City Manager Ferris is managing the expectations well.

Gardens weighs widening roads, Changes would benefit two schools and baseball stadium

Details on proposed Stadium, Open House on 10/16

We wrote up a summary of last week’s City Council meeting including discussion about the proposed Baseball Stadium.

Please make every effort to attend next week’s workshop on it.  Ask your questions.  Read the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).  Note that the presumption appears to be that this project will happen.  Please inform your friends and neighbors and encourage them to attend as well.  Get your questions answered.

Here is a link to the City’s notice about the Open House and FAQs are here.

Willie Howard covers the workshop thoroughly as a front page story in today’s Palm Beach Post.   If you subscribe you can read the whole story online, or here is a text version.

We get the government we deserve – and it’s up to us to watch what they do.  Hope to see you there.

Stadium discussed at October 3rd Council Mtg – Save the date for the 10/16 Workshop!

The proposed baseball stadium came up at several points in the Thursday, October 3rd City Council meeting. Early in the evening, City Administrator Ferris announced that there will be a Public Workshop to be held at the Double Tree Inn on October 16th. This had also been announced in the Palm Beach Post earlier.  Written invitations will be mailed to residents in subdivisions directly adjoining or affected by the project, however all are welcome and encouraged to attend the workshop. Save the date! More information as well as FAQs will be posted on the Palm Beach Gardens City website in advance of the workshop.

Councilman Joe Russo countered the media, which had quoted the deal as almost 95% complete.  Overall, the tone by all on the council, (as pointed out by some making public comment), was that the Council wanted the stadium deal to happen, but they haven’t yet started selling it to the public.  “We’re going to make this happen the right way“, said Russo.

Sal Faso, President of the North County Neighborhood Coalition, made an informative presentation about the coalition which includes communities from West Palm Beach up through Tequesta.  One of the coalition’s key goals it to get accurate  information to residents of member communities.  Avenir was of concern to his group and they were eager to hear more about the stadium.

During Public Comment, Tom Carnes of the PGA Corridor praised the ballpark, as did Joel Channing – also of PGA Corridor. Others, including Lauren Miller, Mike Peragine, Iris Scheibl and Richard Rosenblatt were concerned about hearing about the stadium first through the paper, expressed general anxiety on how much seemed to have already been decided, looked forward to additional information,  and questioned the potential tie-in of the stadium to the later agenda items Ordinance 16, 2013/Ordinance 19, 2013, and related zoning issues.

Ordinances 16 and 19 were presented as a single item, since both are necessary in order to accomplish the waiver criteria and 25% set-aside capability.  Director of Planning and Zoning Natlie Crowley presented the ordinances and credited Councilwoman Tinsley’s questions from the September meeting and her involvement with the team in making it a better and more solid set of proposals.  Public comment included – Vito DeFrancesco who was concerned that the comp plan changes could jeopardize wetlands and historic properties. Responses by Councilman Levy and affirmation by Ms. Crowley were that there were federal and state regulations that would prohibit such actions.  Barbara Grossman related the proposed changes to Seven/50. Iris Scheibl was concerned that the criteria would allow almost any project to be approved, whether there were mitigation requirements for governmental entities as there were for private developments and finally – asked if the stadium project be completed without these ordinances. Mike Peragine seconded the question on the stadium. Answers given were that the comp plan changes were not required for the stadium, that they could be applied to other upcoming projects, and that mitigation would still be possible with the comp plan changes. The Council’s vote was 5:0. The Comp Plan change will now go to Tallahassee, where after approval, the two Ordinances will once again appear for 2nd Reading, most likely in the November time-frame.

Also passing 5:0 were Ordinance 17 (2nd Reading) – rezoning and site plan approval for the Chase Bank to be located near US 1 and PGA Blvd; Ordinance 18 (1st Reading) – which would achieve a voluntary annexation of the land associated with the former Capital Lighting and Parking lot), and Resolution 58, 2013 – which was a modification replacing the fountain in front of the Waterford Hotel with plantings and renovated sculptures.

The Greenmarket also begins its Eleventh year on Sunday, October 6th.  The Council gave its thanks to Joel Channing for hosting the Summer Greenmarket at his facility.

We all have a lot of questions about the impact of Baseball on our community – so make it a point to get to the Workshop on Wednesday, October 16th.  Let your friends and neighbors know.