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Clay County gets warning about new park

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Updated: 7/19/2013 11:52 pm

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- A controversial plan to build a pricey ballpark in Clay County could cost taxpayers millions. One county commissioner worries they could lose close to a half-million dollars even if it doesn't get built.

Unused land along Brannan Field and Old Jennings roads in Middleburg could one day be transformed into the home to a first-class baseball facility. But first, Clay County taxpayers have to pay for it.

Clay County commissioners are now debating if the estimated $19 million price tag is worth it.  It's slated to be the largest sports complex Clay County has ever seen.

The mega ballpark could generate 3,000 jobs over a decade, an economic boost Clay County commissioner Wendell Davis welcomes.

"Great quality of life, you're talking about family kids, the ripple effect of hotels and restaurants," said Davis.

If built, the mega ballpark would be operated by California-based Big League Dreams.

"They've got 11 successful parks that are operating effectively, they're profitable," said State Rep. Travis Cummings, a republican from Orange Park.

Rep. Cummings has supported the project since plans were first introduced a couple of years ago when he sat on the Clay County commission.

Some aren't so sure. Commissioner Ronnie Robinson tells Action News he predicts the ballpark's price will balloon to $25 million before the first pitch is thrown.

Action News Ryan Smith discovered Oxnard , California terminated its deal with Big League Dreams because leaders there also had concerns about costly construction overruns.

"The costs were not properly represented," said Tim Flynn, mayor of Oxnard, California.

Mayor Tim Flynn has some advice for Clay County leaders. "They need to determine as a community, collectively if they can afford it and not predicate it on rosy projections."

Before the first blueprint is drawn up, Big League Dreams takes about $400 thousand from the target community, like a down payment and show of good faith. Typically, another $50 thousand is spent on a feasability study.

Clay County has already spent at least that much.

The Oxnard mayor tells Action News, his city lost it all. "I think it's much more than a half-million," said Mayor Flynn. "I can't give you an exact dollar figure but it's much more than a half-million, closer to $1 million."

Like $1 million spent in Oxnard and nothing to show for it.

Rep. Cummings wants local taxpayers to know, if Clay County backs out of the deal with Big League Dreams, its contract is drawn up to ensure a refund.

"The money is refunded under a period of time in which the Clay County Development Authority or the county decides not to move forward," said Cummings. "These examples you mention, I'm aware and I did my own research. As you look at other counties and other cities, there's always different circumstances."

Clay County commissioners are expected to vote on moving forward with the project by the end of August.

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nonya - 7/20/2013 4:10 PM
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Yea..The 11 Big League Dreams ARE profitable Big League Dreams and not necessarily to the communities they are in. The REAL meat of this story is the taxpayers build the $25 Million project then turn it over on a 30 year contract to an out of state company (Big League Dreams) who in turn will run and maintain the facility. (basically the tax payers are building a "turn-key" facility for a private company that will have no "skin in the game") IF you want to play ball there (on a team) OR your child/friend are playing ball there you will pay an entrance fee...will be required to buy all of your refreshments THERE and will be paying for parking also. BLD will tell you that the fields will be available, for free, to the public if the fields are not reserved or in use by paying patrons from noon to 4 p.m. the trouble with that is there is no way for you to know when that will be the case. Just another tax payer funded capitol project that will take 75 to 125 or more years to be paid off...if then even...
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