“It’s not like it’s been only two weeks of discussions”

What’s the rush?

Leaders of the Chesterfield County government who want a proposed mega sports complex to proceed quickly are about to plunk down $4.3 million for a lease on artificial turf fields, community center and a basketball court.

And that’s led to a growing chorus of questions about why the municipality is helping to fund a private sports complex, and why there seems to be such a rush to fork over funds when the project previously said it has a deep bench of investors.

SportsQuest, a planned sports mecca near Route 288 and Powhite Parkway in Chesterfield County, wants to use the funds to get ready for a September opening. Steve Burton, the founder and principal, said that while the deal with the county may appear hastily put together, the two parties have been hammering away on details for more than a year.

Garrett Hart, who works in the department of economic development and is spearheading the county’s involvement with SportsQuest, said that that Chesterfield will stroke a check for $4.3 million to SportsQuest when lawyers from both parties finish negotiating. At that point, SportsQuest will close on the land, which it does not currently own.

Hart wasn’t specific about when that could be, but said “soon.”

The county’s Board of Supervisors approved the deal at a hearing last week. The final step, Hart said, is to show the final agreement to the county manager.

Representatives from several local soccer leagues have asked why the county is pouring funds into the endeavor when the parks department had plans for other fields, and why there is such a rush. (You can read about that here and here). They asked for 30 days more to learn details about the project, such as whether or not County residents will have to pay an additional fee to SportsQuest. (Burton told BizSense that County residents will not have to join or pay extra money to use the fields during Chesterfield’s allotted time slots).

That request for another month to review the plan was denied by the Board of Directors.

James Holland, a district supervisor, voted against the funding and also asked for more time to study documents that he said he’s not been given.

Holland said the expedited pace is a red flag.

“As a CPA, I want to look at the financials, and I asked the (county) staff if they’ve done that and they said yes,” Holland said.

“I am not convinced they’ve thought this project through. If the project is so good, and if the private entity is so sound, then they ought to be able to do it without us (meaning tax-payer funding).”

He said he’s going to ask for the numbers and documents to be provided to the department of economic development.

BizSense was unable to reach Dan Gecker, the chairman of the board of supervisors who voted for the project.

Hart said that SportsQuest needs the funds to buy the property, and to move ahead with the turf fields so that it can open for a Labor Day soccer tournament.

Sportexe, the turf company, is currently putting in the fields. A representative from Sportexe said that it’s installing 1.7 million square feet of turf, and that an average cost is around $7.50 per square foot of turf, or $12.75 million for this phase of the project. SportsQuest may be paying less since it’s ordering so much material, Sportexe said.

“A 30-day delay would put that project in jeopardy, and that would affect his (Steve Burton, the principal behind the project) income,” Hart said. “The County money is instrumental in getting the project started.”

The managers of local soccer clubs have asked to see the financial documents projections that show how SportsQuest may work – but that document is turning into something of an elusive document.

Hart said he’s seen a business plan that substantiates SportsQuest’s ambitious and unproven business model: putting up to 30 sporting facilities alongside spectator sports, a concert venue and plans to hire 500 full-time workers and invest $250 million.

“He shows financing and shows investment and revenue and income,” Hart said, adding that he cannot share that document because it is private business data.

Burton has missed several benchmarks he publicly stated, such as when he was going to start construction and close on the land.

Hart said that’s because Burton sometimes dreams bigger than is practical.

“He has been projecting a very large dream of what he wants to get accomplished,” Hart said. “He’s an eternal optimist and over schedules himself a bit compared to what can get accomplished in a timely manner.”

Burton, who dreamed up the concept several years ago and is the principal operator at SportsQuest, said in an interview Thursday that while the deal may seem rushed, he and the County have been discussing the details for more than a year.

“It’s not like it’s been only two weeks of discussions,” he said. “I have deep roots in Chesterfield and this partnership has been vetted.”

“Anytime there is something new, you want to vet it, but because you weren’t the one vetting it doesn’t mean it hasn’t been (thoroughly reviewed by government officials).”

Burton said that residents of Chesterfield County now need to make a leap of faith in the process. He added that more and more people believe in the concept now that he has construction crews building fields.

Burton said he wants to open parts of the east campus – which includes the turf fields – around Labor Day. He has previously said he plans on running an adult soccer tournament on Labor Day weekend. There is no mention of that tournament on the SportsQuest website now, but Burton said that his staff is working up the marketing materials for that.

Also potentially worrisome to business people watching the process is that a handful of businesses that have done work for SportsQuest – including those in the advertising industry – have told BizSense they were late in getting paid, which could suggest a cash-flow problem or more simply just a disorganized accounting system.

But employees of SportsQuest told BizSense they have gotten paid on-time, and the coach of SportsQuest’s arena football team, Steve Criswell, said there are no payment irregularities. The football team is also current on its payments to the Arthur Ashe Center, according to a City of Richmond official.

Burton said that some vendors didn’t know they are getting paid on SportsQuest’s schedule, which may be slightly longer terms than they expected. He said everyone who has done work is getting paid.

Aaron Kremer is the BizSense editor. Please send news tips to [email protected]

What’s the rush?

Leaders of the Chesterfield County government who want a proposed mega sports complex to proceed quickly are about to plunk down $4.3 million for a lease on artificial turf fields, community center and a basketball court.

And that’s led to a growing chorus of questions about why the municipality is helping to fund a private sports complex, and why there seems to be such a rush to fork over funds when the project previously said it has a deep bench of investors.

SportsQuest, a planned sports mecca near Route 288 and Powhite Parkway in Chesterfield County, wants to use the funds to get ready for a September opening. Steve Burton, the founder and principal, said that while the deal with the county may appear hastily put together, the two parties have been hammering away on details for more than a year.

Garrett Hart, who works in the department of economic development and is spearheading the county’s involvement with SportsQuest, said that that Chesterfield will stroke a check for $4.3 million to SportsQuest when lawyers from both parties finish negotiating. At that point, SportsQuest will close on the land, which it does not currently own.

Hart wasn’t specific about when that could be, but said “soon.”

The county’s Board of Supervisors approved the deal at a hearing last week. The final step, Hart said, is to show the final agreement to the county manager.

Representatives from several local soccer leagues have asked why the county is pouring funds into the endeavor when the parks department had plans for other fields, and why there is such a rush. (You can read about that here and here). They asked for 30 days more to learn details about the project, such as whether or not County residents will have to pay an additional fee to SportsQuest. (Burton told BizSense that County residents will not have to join or pay extra money to use the fields during Chesterfield’s allotted time slots).

That request for another month to review the plan was denied by the Board of Directors.

James Holland, a district supervisor, voted against the funding and also asked for more time to study documents that he said he’s not been given.

Holland said the expedited pace is a red flag.

“As a CPA, I want to look at the financials, and I asked the (county) staff if they’ve done that and they said yes,” Holland said.

“I am not convinced they’ve thought this project through. If the project is so good, and if the private entity is so sound, then they ought to be able to do it without us (meaning tax-payer funding).”

He said he’s going to ask for the numbers and documents to be provided to the department of economic development.

BizSense was unable to reach Dan Gecker, the chairman of the board of supervisors who voted for the project.

Hart said that SportsQuest needs the funds to buy the property, and to move ahead with the turf fields so that it can open for a Labor Day soccer tournament.

Sportexe, the turf company, is currently putting in the fields. A representative from Sportexe said that it’s installing 1.7 million square feet of turf, and that an average cost is around $7.50 per square foot of turf, or $12.75 million for this phase of the project. SportsQuest may be paying less since it’s ordering so much material, Sportexe said.

“A 30-day delay would put that project in jeopardy, and that would affect his (Steve Burton, the principal behind the project) income,” Hart said. “The County money is instrumental in getting the project started.”

The managers of local soccer clubs have asked to see the financial documents projections that show how SportsQuest may work – but that document is turning into something of an elusive document.

Hart said he’s seen a business plan that substantiates SportsQuest’s ambitious and unproven business model: putting up to 30 sporting facilities alongside spectator sports, a concert venue and plans to hire 500 full-time workers and invest $250 million.

“He shows financing and shows investment and revenue and income,” Hart said, adding that he cannot share that document because it is private business data.

Burton has missed several benchmarks he publicly stated, such as when he was going to start construction and close on the land.

Hart said that’s because Burton sometimes dreams bigger than is practical.

“He has been projecting a very large dream of what he wants to get accomplished,” Hart said. “He’s an eternal optimist and over schedules himself a bit compared to what can get accomplished in a timely manner.”

Burton, who dreamed up the concept several years ago and is the principal operator at SportsQuest, said in an interview Thursday that while the deal may seem rushed, he and the County have been discussing the details for more than a year.

“It’s not like it’s been only two weeks of discussions,” he said. “I have deep roots in Chesterfield and this partnership has been vetted.”

“Anytime there is something new, you want to vet it, but because you weren’t the one vetting it doesn’t mean it hasn’t been (thoroughly reviewed by government officials).”

Burton said that residents of Chesterfield County now need to make a leap of faith in the process. He added that more and more people believe in the concept now that he has construction crews building fields.

Burton said he wants to open parts of the east campus – which includes the turf fields – around Labor Day. He has previously said he plans on running an adult soccer tournament on Labor Day weekend. There is no mention of that tournament on the SportsQuest website now, but Burton said that his staff is working up the marketing materials for that.

Also potentially worrisome to business people watching the process is that a handful of businesses that have done work for SportsQuest – including those in the advertising industry – have told BizSense they were late in getting paid, which could suggest a cash-flow problem or more simply just a disorganized accounting system.

But employees of SportsQuest told BizSense they have gotten paid on-time, and the coach of SportsQuest’s arena football team, Steve Criswell, said there are no payment irregularities. The football team is also current on its payments to the Arthur Ashe Center, according to a City of Richmond official.

Burton said that some vendors didn’t know they are getting paid on SportsQuest’s schedule, which may be slightly longer terms than they expected. He said everyone who has done work is getting paid.

Aaron Kremer is the BizSense editor. Please send news tips to [email protected]

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Steve
Steve
12 years ago

4.3 million dollars from Chesterfield right after they had to lay off a bunch of teachers. Glad to see that the county has their priorities in order.

Nancy Finch
Nancy Finch
12 years ago

Chesterfield County’s governing body is a Board of Supervisors, not a board of directors. Members are Supervisors, not directors.

Lisette Johnson
Lisette Johnson
12 years ago

Maybe I’m missing something here. I filled out a form this spring to decide which electives would be kept, and which cut in my daughter’s Chesterfield County middle school. Should they keep music, or should they art,, or language – because they didn’t have enough money for them all. So is the board of supervisors now saying – Oh what the heck – just close the schools and let all the kids play at the sports complex all day ?!

james
james
12 years ago

If your article is correct then the County should have spent more time considering the facts. As a coach of two little league teams that play on county fields there is plenty of opportunity to employ, spend and improve Chesterfield County by investing in maintaining fields it already owns instead of paying some else (private venture for profit) to create new fields. As a county Chesterfield residents should be concerned that its education system is being short changed so a private citizens can profit with resident money. The country was even considering ending school sports but has enough money to… Read more »

John McDaniel
John McDaniel
12 years ago

Is Sportsquest putting up a surety bond to guarantee to Chesterfield that the fields will be there for them to lease? prepaid rent of 4.3 mil is a real leap of faith. They owe it to the taxpayers to get a guaranty from an acceptable third party surety.
John

Cindy
Cindy
12 years ago

Private sports clubs already force taxpaying citizens off public facilties (try sitting on the dock at Robious landing when any member of the Crew club wants to use it). This is a horrible precedent when taxpayers’ resources are stretched too thin, we should not be subsidizing private profit-making companies.

Cindy
Cindy
12 years ago

Somebody needs to request a Freedom of INformation Act request on those financial agreements with Sportsquest.

steve b
steve b
12 years ago

Lets see…
$30,000,000 short fall in County revenue
teacher lay offs
$250,000,000 project yet can’t fund even the closing to get it off the ground
private/for profit owner
elusive documents
accelerated pace
slow pay, cash problems, payment schedules not matching up

Sounds pretty solid to me.
Maybe Bear Stearns or Lehman Brothers would like to invest! Opps..
What next???

Redbeard
Redbeard
12 years ago

Since when does Chesterfield County invest in “start-up” businesses anyway??? Once that word gets out, Chesterfield will have all kinds of business activity — and everyone will have their hand out for some tax dollars, too. And, last time I checked, a CPA is generally much more qualified and knowledgeable to evaluate a company’s financial data than the typical person working in economic development, so its suspicious that Mr. Holland is being denied a look for himself. Besides, he’s part of Chesterfield County isn’t he, so why wouldn’t any documents being reviewed by economic development also be available to him?

Bert Holland
Bert Holland
12 years ago

This deal stinks. If these guys cannot even raise the money to buy the land, how on earth does anyone expect them to make it? This is very bad timing. We are not in a economic boom cycle where families can throw away money on sports. In the current and future economy, people will need to be more interested in feeding kids and paying for college than training a a kid to play sports. Get in the backyard, put on a ball glove or put up a soccer net and teach your kid to play. Paying some overgrown adolescent to… Read more »

David M
David M
12 years ago

When Mr Burton says “member-based business model” why then does he accept $15 Million in Federal govt stimulus funds. Why does he need Chesterfield county tax payers to put up $100 Million Bond. Why does he need Tax Frees Status. Why can’t we find out from our elected officials the plans on this monster of PRIVATE ENTERPRISE which is SUBSIDZED BY TAXPAYERS… CHESTERFIELD COUNTY SMELLS OF PORK.