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.”