Pensacola Politics

City and CMPA want to renegotiate with Wahoos

October 17, 2013

Getting the Blue Wahoos to renegotiate its use agreement for the Maritime Park stadium appears to be a top priority for both Mayor Ashton Hayward and the Community Maritime Park Associates Board of Trustees.

Owner Quint Studer told the Independent News this morning that he isn’t interested in a protracted renegotiation process of a contract that he considers is the most favorable for any city in the Southern League and is only in its second year. He would prefer the CMPA, City Council and Mayor’s Office meet and draft their proposal and present it to the team for analysis.

The issue is money for the CMPA. Other than the Wahoos and parking concessions, the park has failed to create other revenue sources.

At yesterday’s meeting, CMPA chairman Jim Reeves reported that the net loss for the non-profit that runs the maritime park was $169,000 for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

According to sources with the Double A team, the Wahoos will soon be giving the CMPA a check for over $400,000—which is on top of base use fees already paid to the CMPA.

Where the park is suffering is not booking other paid events. The City Parks & Recreation Department has had the contract for that for the past two years. Other than parking fees, it hasn’t met its budgeted revenue figure for 2012 or 2013.

At his “Morning with Mayor” session with local media, Mayor Hayward said that he wanted to renegotiate the use agreement. After praising Quint Studer for his philanthropy, the mayor said, “With his generosity, I think the use agreement we can look at. Maybe there are some changes that can be made to help the CMPA pay its bills.”

Mayor Hayward said, “I think we’re looking at a way we can all win together. There are some areas in the use agreements that can be changed.”

The mayor offered no specifics of what he wanted changed, but CMPA chairman Reeves mentioned at the CMPA meeting that he had 33 items that he wanted to discuss.

When asked if he was pursuing other revenue sources for the park, the mayor said the he was hoping that SMG, the company that manages the Saenger Theatre and Pensacola Bay Center, would be successful in booking more paid events.

Quint Studer told the Independent News that he and his wife have lived up to all their commitments to the city and CMPA.

“As we have shown from day one we keep our word and most often surpass it,” said Studer. “Double A team versus independent team; 70 game schedule versus 48 games; $16 million office building versus $12 million office building. We feel living up to one’s commitments is important.”

He also believes that the use agreement is more than fair for the city and CMPA, pointing out that the mayor, council and CMPA unanimously approved it two years ago.

“We feel the use agreement is one of those commitments that all parties should respect,” said Studer. “The mayor, CMPA and council all approved it. The mayor spoke on the fact it is very favorable to the city. Cities that don’t honor agreements don’t attract jobs or companies.”

Mayor Hayward and his team negotiated the use agreement during his first year of office. When he announced the final agreement in July 2011, he told the daily newspaper, “This use agreement is a good deal for the taxpayers and citizens of Pensacola and a real testament to the generosity and commitment of the Studers to our community.”

Studer did not rule out renegotiating the use agreement.

“If the CMPA or city have a proposal, we will consider it,” he said. “We are very open to all discussions being in the sunlight for us and all others. As we have shown repeatedly, we work hard to improve Pensacola. However we can’t be expected to make up for other problems the city and CMPA face due to projects by others not being followed up on or offers being rejected.”

He ended the interview, “As the Mayor said at his recent meeting with the media we must quit in-fighting. Our continued focus will be on jobs, education and safety.”

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  • Dale Parker October 19, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    Addendum to my previous comment.
    My opinion, for what it is worth, is that it does not bode well for the City to renegotiate an existing and binding contract just because later they find out that the deal is bad for them. This does not look good for future entities looking to do business with the City.

    This little disaster should be put squarely at the feet of Mayor Hayward and Collier Merrill. They next time they want to negotiate a deal at Jackson’s maybe they should consider the Citizens of Pensacola rather than themselves.

    And… Mr. Studer and his attorney are far far from knowledgeable regrading the numbers. Just because your opponent is stupid does not mean you would walk all over them when the “them” are the Citizens of Pensacola who went out on the limb and built you a beautiful stadium on THEIR dime!

  • Dale Parker October 19, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    Santa Rosa would never be so stupid to enter into such expensive and losing deals. This park will cost nearly $93,000,000 tax dollars mainly from the CRA. OF WHICH, these potential capital dollars are blown resulting in a loss of investment in downtown. The CRA has shifted $322,000 of their yearly expenditures to the General fund, run that out 30 years and you have another $9,660,000 dollars we are tax dollars are covering. Then let’s talk about the Subsidies 300-400 THOUSAND dollars a year. The fact is, the deals surrounding this park are so convoluted there is no way to wrap your head around the cost to the City.

    This park, stadium, leases, you name it have been negotiated to fail. Take Beck, if you go back to the design, his building is 1/3 the size it should be forever robbing Pensacola of Potential tax revenue. Take the designs, we spent a God knows how much on the design documents, are they followed, NO. Poof there goes that money.

    Quint is probably a shrewd business man and has negotiated himself a good deal. What are we to do — it was STUPID to build the thing, THEN negotiate. At that point the City’s hands are tied. Studer is holding all the cards, what is the City going to do, allow him to walk while they have blown 53 MILLION Dollars on a stadium they cannot use. It was STUPID and to all that is Holy someone should be in prison over it.

    The fact is, pardon me Mr. Outzen but the rent minus the taxes is laughable given the asset the Wahoo’s occupies. We pay taxes in our building with our Rent. Once a year, we get a tax bill from the lessor. In negotiating the use agreement it was specifically stated, that the Wahoos WOULD NOT be responsible for property taxes when it is there VERY OPERATION that made taxes a reality.

    Furthermore, had Chris Jones not twisted every ounce he could finding every minuscule speck of gray area – that tax bill would have been around $350,000 per year. And… the City managed to get the County to agree to waive their taxes – government taxing itself sort of thing. So… who knows if that mess will ever be challenged. I am thinking not, since our State Attorney or anyone else turns a blind eye to anything shady in this town.

    Bottom line, the City of Pensacola is BROKE and Mayor Hayward knows it. With our pathetically weak council our budget is nothing more than a bottom line where they Mayor can spend as he sees fit. Millions have been wasted on surfing fetuses, renaming an Airport which is not the laughing stock of everyone who travels through it. The scope of Hayward’s shenanigans are legendary to say the least. I contend, if this man was Ron McNesby or George Toart Rick Outzen would be seeking treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome and trying to type over the blisters on his finger tips. Heck, there would not be enough ink in Northwest Florida.

    All I know is, something is going to give and when it does the calamity and damage will be substantial.

    • Rick Outzen October 19, 2013 at 3:43 pm

      At the last CMPA meeting, the chair announced they had refunded part of the subsidy to the CRA. Can’t remember the amount, but it was substantial. The net loss for the year was reported as $169K.

      1. The flaw in your logic that the CRA will have to pay $9.66 million in subsidies for the CMPA over the next 30 years is that would only happen if the CMPA never creates any other revenue streams and doesn’t lease any of the other parcels. Neither will happen.

      2. The park isn’t convoluted. It’s actually quite simple. The CMPA needs to lease the parcels, host paid events and maintain the park. This can be done without melodrama, constant rehashing (oftentimes incorrectly) the past and bashing the Studers for others’ mistakes, broken promises and failures.

      3. The Wahoos paying nearly $700,000 this year is no laughing matter, especially when it’s more than any other team in the league is paying.

      4. The City needs to focus on leasing the parcels, hosting paid events and growing the tax base in the CRA.

      5. Growth in the CRA district is already taking place. It will take time for it to hit the tax rolls. Studers are big contributors to CRA growth – Rhodes Building, Bodacious Olive & Brew, Carmen’s Lunch Bar, the Artisan and, if they can close the deal, PNJ Office Building. Their $12 million office building is adding another floor which will make it a $16 million office building and add 100 more workers downtown. First Navy is building on the corner of Palafox and Main streets. And we still have the ECUA block available.

      Maybe the city should be requesting that the property appraiser, Chris Jones, reassess all the CRA properties to be sure the owners are paying the proper taxes.

  • Ross Norton October 19, 2013 at 8:31 am

    Jeez. The Wahoos and the stadium are the best things to happen to Pensacola in like, I don’t know, forever? So of course the city wants to punish them for their success! I have followed the CMPA and city government’s dealings from the beginning and can truly report their mismangement is why the park is a spectacular failure. They chased off UWF and every developer who had a decent plan with their underhanded, double-dealing, backstabbing, petty, small-town mentality and outright greed. Mr. Mayor, (in the immortal words of Vinnie Barbarino)”Up your nose with a rubber hose!” Who are you morons going to extort when Studer moves the team to Santa Rosa County?

  • Eric October 18, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    There is no excuse for this. We only have so many philanthropist millionaire locals reinvesting into the community, let’s not make them feel unwelcome.

    -There were national entities interested in the CMP prior to the referendum, Mr. Studer didn’t chase them away.
    -Like the plan or not, the YMCA was an offer to create daily foot traffic and increase the value to developers. That offer was refused.
    -It has not been forgotten that nobody has actually attempted to sell any of the lots.
    -Public complaints about locals like Beck when they offer to build a(very nice, actually- the big paper released their design yesterday) multi-million dollar mixed use building because it isn’t _________ (big, public, whatever) enough….really?
    -It hurts our image when investors come in and love our city, but then find that they and their business will experience a smear campaign if they try to bring jobs downtown.
    -The property tax issue needs to be looked at again. We’re not competitive with literally any other city our size our bigger until we do. Throw them a bone, 2 years property tax exemption, something. Or we can hold out hope that Space X or Genetech or whoever are going to pay millions extra to move here instead of somewhere else because…dementia?
    -This property hasn’t even been marketed, this is why it doesn’t make any money. Nobody has tried it yet. Studer and Beck stepped up, it’s everyone else’s turn/

  • Nick October 18, 2013 at 10:09 am

    Instead of smg to book events, how about HUKA Entertainment. The saenger in Mobile just hired them and they have done a great job with Hangout Fest and other national festivals. SMG seems to fall short with their civic center bookings. A couple of big names a year doesn’t reach Pensacola’s full potential.

  • Richard Hawkins October 18, 2013 at 9:51 am

    My takeaway: the CMPA is a mix of failure and success so let’s tax success. What did I get wrong?

  • EPenn October 18, 2013 at 9:28 am

    Honestly, I am no fan of the Studers; however, they got a deal that was agreed to by multiple layers of the City government. Whether its a good or bad deal for the city, it should be honored. The mayor just needs to start working harder and smarter so next time he doesn’t find himself in the same mess.

  • George Hawthorne October 18, 2013 at 8:51 am

    Rick – I would also add that the City Neighborhood Services should get out of managing the CMP. They just don’t have the experience in developing and marketing the CMP as a revenue generating “specialty events/festival venue.” They don’t have the capital or entrepreneurial expertise to create “signature events” or year-round “programming” of the Park’s facilities to generate revenue.

    Furthermore, the SMG “contract” for the amphitheater is a great deal … for SMG. They don’t take any risks and get to take their fees and employee costs “off the top” any revenue from concerts and events and they get to keep any sales revenue from concessions. Great deal for SMG, bad deal for CMPA.

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