Council rejects Sportsplex purchase offer

By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers

TAYLOR — The first post-primary election city council meeting on Aug. 7 included a decision not to sell the city-owned Taylor Sportsplex, in spite of an offer of $5.4 million for the building and 14 acres of land.

Mayor Jeffrey Lamarand said he was disappointed in the decision, but will continue negotiating in hopes of energizing economic activity in the city.

“This was a great offer,” Lamarand said of the proposal. “A great opportunity. We don’t have people lined up at the door.”

The city assumed ownership of the Sportsplex, 13333 Telegraph Road, in January after management firm JRV Consultants vacated the complex. JRV began running the facility and programs in 2011 under a similar deal as it held with Southgate Civic Center Arena, and last year attempted to purchase the building and nearby land from the city. Those negotiations fell through when the city’s $6 million asking price was questioned by JRV, which had reported a $4.5 million valuation of the land and complex.

JRV left the building, and unpaid rent and fees of more than $80,000, and the city took over management of the center and sports programs. Management of the Sportsplex was placed under the direction of the city Golf, Parks and Recreation department, which offered at best a break-even proposition to city officials. A $30,000 February repair bill — paid by the Tax Increment Finance Authority — reminded officials that investment would be needed if the facility were to be profitable.

Interest in ownership of the complex by Taylor Sports, Events and Community Center LLC resulted in a $5.4 million cash offer — plus $1 for the property — and plans to build an inflatable dome, hotel and restaurant.

Council voted against the offer 3-2, with Councilmen John Delo, Rick Sollars and Dennis Stapleton opposing the sale. Council Chairwoman Cheryl Burke and Councilwoman Jill Brandana voted for the sale; and Councilwomen Suzanne Fitzpatrick and Jacklyn Molner were absent.

Councilors voting against the sale had hoped for a proper appraisal of the property before approving any purchase, although the offer did not require a bank’s evaluation.

“This was a cash sale, not contingent on financing,” Lamarand said. “The opportunity was there to get them on the tax roll and create economic activity.”

Taylor Sports, Events and Community Center LLC had been formed for the expressed purpose of purchasing and developing the complex, and Lamarand said negotiations will continue.

“We’ll bring it forward again,” Lamarand said. “The longer it takes the longer it’s not on the tax rolls and the less support we get for financial help. Right now it’s a strain on tax revenue and money we could be putting into something else.”

(James Mitchell can be reached at jmitchell@bewickpublications.com.)

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