The Wellington Village Council on Tuesday, Nov. 9 authorized village staff to enter into negotiations for the redevelopment of Wellington Community Park by a group led by NFL linebacker Jon Bostic with the Washington Football Team and Devon Travis, a current baseball coach with the Atlanta Braves organization who played in the MLB for the Detroit Tigers and the Toronto Blue Jays. Both are graduates of Palm Beach Central High School and grew up in Wellington.
Once the home of the Wellington Boys & Girls Club, the park, located on South Shore Blvd. south of Pierson Road, has been underutilized since a new Boys & Girls Club facility opened in 2013.
Assistant Village Manager Ed De La Vega said the council several months ago directed staff to issue a request for proposals for the redevelopment of Wellington Community Park to determine if there was anyone interested in working with the village on the park.
“We were fortunate enough to receive one proposal from Wellington Athletics LLC,” De La Vega said, explaining that Wellington Athletics is comprised of Bostic as president and Travis as vice president, as well as other local renowned athletes.
De La Vega said Wellington Athletics’ proposed concept is to develop one regulation baseball field, a regulation-sized football field, a multi-use field, a 100-meter turf straightaway track, an indoor batting cage and pitching mound, and a 40,300-square-foot gym with 5,625 square feet of cheerleading and gymnastics space, 10,000 square feet of general fitness area, 3,100 square feet of private workout rooms, as well as physical therapy and chiropractic space including exam rooms, with amenities such as hot and cold tubs, infrared saunas, a steam room, a float tank and a massage room.
The facility will include a 1,000-square-foot café for quick and healthy meals and snack options. The proposed facility reserves sufficient space to accommodate additional basketball or volleyball courts.
“Wellington Athletics’ proposal includes the funding, estimated to be a $17.5 million project, of which Wellington Athletics is willing to come up with $2.7 million up front, with a loan of $12 million, they have a bank approval, I believe it’s a seven-year loan, and they are requesting that the Village of Wellington contribute $2.8 million,” De La Vega said.
Mayor Anne Gerwig asked what the current funding is for the park to bring it up to usable standards, and Village Manager Jim Barnes said the current estimation to renovate the existing fields is about $5 million.
De La Vega said if the council approved, village staff would schedule meetings with the Wellington Athletics team. The proposal is just the starting point, he said, and it is likely to change.
“We would schedule sessions with the proposers. These sessions would have to be advertised and recorded. A cone of silence would still be in effect until the contract is awarded,” he explained, adding that the staff would provide timely updates to the council.
De La Vega noted that Village Attorney Laurie Cohen would need to work on what is necessary for this type of public/private partnership, because it has not been done previously by the village.
Bostic and Travis were present at the meeting to support the proposal.
Bostic said he met Travis at Polo Park Middle School, where they played baseball and basketball together. They went different routes at Palm Beach Central High School, with Bostic pursuing football and Travis baseball. Bostic went to the University of Florida, and Travis attended Florida State University.
“[Travis] played baseball, I went a different route. I played a little football, so he left me alone and ended up going to Florida State,” Bostic said. “I think we’ve done lot of hard work over the last couple of months, and hopefully this is something we can definitely make work.”
Travis said it is an opportunity he has been looking at for years.
“Growing up in Wellington, I went to Polo Park and Palm Beach Central. I coached at Palm Beach Central over the last two years. I now coach with the Braves,” Travis said. “It’s an opportunity to give back to the community that gave us so much and gave us an opportunity to live our dreams.”
Travis said that with all the potential athletic talent he has seen in the community, he felt the facility could be something special. “It’s a special opportunity to work with one of my best buddies, and we hope we can make it work,” he said.
Gerwig said she is proud that they came back to their hometown. “I’m excited about the process and seeing what we can make work,” she said.
The rest of the council agreed.
Councilwoman Tanya Siskind said she felt the proposal was top-flight, and she was proud that Wellington Athletics had made the proposal.
“I know we have tons of questions and, just to be clear to the public watching tonight, [we are] talking about approving just the ability to even talk,” she said.
Vice Mayor John McGovern said that evening was not to dive into details, but get the process started.
Councilman Michael Drahos, who grew up in Wellington, said he has fond memories of the fields at Wellington Community Park during their previous glory days.
“It is like a dream scenario where we have guys who grew up in Wellington, where we appreciate what these fields can offer to our kids, and you’ve been successful. You’re a model for other kids to strive to become like, and so the idea is that you can take the reins and really enhance this property,” Drahos said.
Councilman Michael Napoleone made a motion to authorize staff to enter into negotiations for the redevelopment of Wellington Community Park, which carried 5-0.