Westfield City Council Member Says ‘Grand Park Doesn’t Make Money’ • Current Publications
Troy Patton, a member of Westfield City Council, gave a presentation on Grand Park’s finances at the council’s finance committee meeting on May 2 and acknowledged what many ratepayers have questioned since the opening of the fleet in 2014: when depreciation is taken into account, the fleet does not bring in any money.
Patton showed Grand Park’s assets, revealing revenue was $6.14 million and expenses were $3.37 million in 2021, so his earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and other expenses was $2.76 million for 2021. But Patton said the park’s depreciation was about $2.9 million in 2021.
“It’s something we always like to brag about, ‘Oh, we make money at Grand Park,'” Patton said. “I don’t care if we make money or not, it’s supposed to. be an economic driver and it does, but if you don’t even mention the $2.9 million writedown, it’s not making money. taxpayers to understand that Grand Park doesn’t make money. That’s OK, but we have to stop saying it makes money.
Since the city issued a RFP March 3 for a new park owner and/or operatorPatton said the board was inundated with questions, which is why he made the presentation at the finance committee meeting. He says he compiled information from the DP and the Clerk-Treasurer’s office for income and expenses. The Westfield Redevelopment Authority owns the park.
“People want to know what Grand Park is worth and what it generates,” Patton said. “We’ve never seen that in black and white numbers. Something taxpayers pay for is something they should know what it brings to the city, what its expenses are, what its balance sheet and balance sheet look like, what we are responsible for, and what our intentions are. I think Grand Park is succeeding in some aspects, like building a tax base, but I think we need to look at it more from a bigger picture perspective.
Patton said area businesses, such as restaurants, depend on Grand Park for their sales.
“There are already people who said, ‘Hey, we’re going to build a Grand Park in our state,’ or in the states around us,” Patton said. “Some have abandoned these ideas because the cost is too high. If our asset is getting old and tired and we don’t control it, who’s to say Auburn isn’t building the next one and pulling everyone from there? »
Another concern expressed by the finance committee about a possible sale of Grand Park is that some of its debt cannot be assumed by a new owner.
“Why even issue a request for proposals if the debt cannot be assumed?” said Westfield City Council member Joe Edwards. “It sticks us with a hell of a load with no way to remove it. I hadn’t realized that the debt was impossible to assume.
Westfield chief of staff Jeremy Lollar said if the city sold Grand Park, it would use the proceeds to pay off the park’s debt. The city still owes nearly $80 million for Grand Park, and Patton said if the city had to settle for anything less than that, it would be a burden on taxpayers.
“Grand Park’s cash flow is negative,” he said. “The city claimed she had a net worth of $200 million, and I think that’s probably a bit of a stretch.”
Finance committee members expressed concern that any of the interested buyers might buy the park for far less than it’s worth, but Lollar said legally the city couldn’t sell the park for unless he evaluates it.
“The law wouldn’t allow us to sell it for less than the average appraised value of the assets,” Lollar said. “We ordered these two (appraisals) and we don’t know what they are, but we wouldn’t sell them for $20 million. We would not be legally allowed to do so.
Patton doubts the park will sell for his estimated $200 million net worth.
“If anybody’s willing to pay $200 million, throw them in my house,” Patton said. “I’m pretty comfortable knowing that no one is going to pay $200 million for the asset or even $100 million for the asset unless we plan to raze the place and put something else in there. , which I think would be a mistake.”
If Grand Park receives adequate payment from a buyer, Patton hopes some of the proceeds will be used to repay Westfield City Council the $6 million owed to it. In 2014, a resolution was approved whereby the council loaned $6 million of the proceeds from the sale of utilities to the city for use in Grand Park. Cindy Spoljaric, Westfield Council Member, voted against the resolution, which passed, and said she had never received a report on where the money was spent.
“Nowhere does it appear on Grand Park’s debt that this $6 million is owed,” Spoljaric said. “It’s a loan. It is to be reimbursed. »
Spoljaric said the council had not received any repayment of the loan, even though the resolution stated that the money would be repaid as revenue became available. Patton said he hopes the council gets its due as many projects in the city, such as infrastructure, could benefit from the money.
“If we’re going to go out and talk about bidding, let’s get to the $6 million and work out a payment plan,” Patton said. “There are a lot of things we could do with that $6 million. No interest has accrued on it. We haven’t recovered the $6 million. It’s a bit of a slap in the face for a lot of people that this hasn’t been addressed. »
Lollar said 16 candidates have expressed interest in posting a proposal for Grand Park.
“Make no mistake, if someone buys Grand Park, they buy it so they can invest in it and grow this business. Maybe they don’t make much more money from events and tournaments, but maybe they make money from their development around the park,” Lollar said.
Edwards said he hoped the city had enough financial information for Grand Park because the council never received it.
“Anyone (who) is going to buy this is going to say, ‘I want to see the books.’ It’s a normal question if you’re considering buying a large business,” Edwards said. “Hopefully we have enough information because (the board) never got it, that’s for sure. whether it’s profitable or not, they’re going to make the same decision themselves, they’re going to want to see the books.
Patton also expressed concern that the city is issuing a request for proposals as a trial balloon to see what private investors could pay for Grand Park.
“We shouldn’t be bidding for the sake of bidding just to test the waters,” Patton said. “When you do that, it’s like putting your house up for sale just to see what you can get, but you’re not interested in selling it, you just want to see. After a while people will say, ‘These people are just kicking the tire, they’re not even serious.’ If we’re going to go out and tender, we should be serious about it and at least have an analysis to say, “It’s not even generating $200 million. If someone comes and offers 200 million dollars, I’m gonna sit here and eat crow all day.
Lollar assured the finance committee that the RFP was not just an exercise.
“We’re serious about this, assuming the right proposal aligns with our plan, which would leave Grand Park as Grand Park and it would still be the economic engine for the town of Westfield,” Lollar said. “It would just be able to flourish with private capital investment, that’s the intention.”
The deadline for proposals is June 22. Lollar said a proposal review committee is being set up. To learn more, visit westfield.in.gov.