The Joplin City Council made the right play in putting a proposed ballpark leasing deal in action.
Given the troubled history of the city with league and ballfield deals, we’re glad to see the deal includes a provision for getting the money upfront.
The Joplin City Council voted 7-2 on Monday night to give final approval to a lease with Parkwood Tournament Co. The company will lease Joe Becker and Wendell Redden stadiums along with Bassman Softball Complex and Gabby Street Field from the city for $55,000 a year. The payment will be due in a lump sum at the signing of the lease. The company had asked the council to sign off on the deal as an emergency measure so that scheduling could begin sooner, but council members rightly declined in order to consider the deal more carefully. The city has twice made deals for the operation of the community’s ball fields, and those deals both failed.
The city listened Monday to representatives of the Joplin Sports Authority, who had asked for a delay to counter the Parkwood offer. The JSA sought the delay but was late to the prom, asking to craft a previously unthought-of proposal to lease and manage the fields itself after an apparently sound proposal was already on table. The organization’s concerns are valid and should be heard, but the council was right to OK the deal at hand.
The principals of Parkwood, Mike Greninger, Bobby Landis and Don Patty, stage youth baseball tournaments. They plan to book the fields for anyone who wants to rent them and to work with the JSA and the Outlaws baseball on dates needed by those organizations.
JSA is funded through the city lodging tax to promote sporting events and tournaments in order to bring business to Joplin hotels and other businesses. The organization books city sports fields and stadiums and pays for those dates.
JSA’s concerns include its right of first refusal for booking dates; potential headbutting over game scheduling; possible conflicts between JSA sponsorship deals that include signs at fields with signs to be posted for Parkwood-scheduled organizations and events; field maintenance that would fall to Parkwood on weekends for non-Parkwood events; and the disparate goals of the for-profit company versus the not-for-profit JSA.
Parkwood must work with JSA, and the city should monitor that relationship. However, timing was important in approving the contract. Now is the time spring and summer tournaments are scheduled. The business needs to get started scheduling, and tourist dollars are at stake for the city. Delay would diminish those dollars.
Mayor Ryan Stanley has said the city can end the contract with Parkwood if it is adverse to the city or its partners. Therefore, the city should review the deal after a year. The city can cancel it if the company falls short of its responsibilities with little risk given that the lease is paid upfront. Conversely, the City Council could later ask city officials to call for bids, and JSA could bring a competing proposal at that time.
We believe more action on the city’s ballfields can be a win for our community.