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.
Is this the beginning of privatizing our Village services? While the private sector has redeveloped our parks before, Wellington Community Park will be the first park to be maintain and operated by a LLC. Is privatizing our park’s operations and maintenance the best for “we the taxpayers” and our employees? Will we lose employees?
De La Vega statement that “We were fortunate enough to receive one proposal from Wellington Athletics LLC,” should have raised a RED FLAG. Specially, since this LLC was created in October 2021, after the Council’s request. While the members of this LLC are notable and local, should they be making money with our taxes?
According to our Website, this park has the following facilities: 2 Lighted Basketball Courts, 4 Batting Cages, 6 Lighted Baseball Fields, Concession Stand/Restrooms, Old Boys and Girls Club, Picnic Shelter, Play Structure, and Swing Set. With the exception of the Old Boys and Girls Club, why are we rebuilding this park?
The proposed concept is impressive if not grandiose. Aren’t the 2 Gymnasiums and 4 Multi-Purpose Classrooms at the Village Park enough? And what about the $12M+ for the Greenview Shores Park with 8 new tennis courts, 3 new basketball courts, 1 track, 4 state-of-the-art synthetic turf multi-purpose fields, 1 synthetic turf stadium football field and Auxiliary track & field facilities? The Neil S. Hirsch Boys & Girls Club has 22,570 square feet for Arts and Crafts Center, Computer Lab, Dance Studio, Full-Sized Kitchen, and a Gymnasium. Does our Village really need hot and cold tubs, infrared saunas, a steam room, a float tank, and a massage room? Let’s leave those amenities to the private sector.
Our Village Council gave our School Board $12M for Greenview Shores Park, $4.5M for swampland and now they want to give a LLC $2.8M just for rebuilding this park. However, how much will this LLC be charging “we the taxpayers” for the maintenance and operation? In addition, what will happen if this newly formed LLC goes broke, will “we the taxpayers” have to bail them out?
Do we really need to spend our taxes glorifying a newly formed LLC? Is it legal to pass the responsibility of our Village staff to a limited number of designers and contractors involved in this scheme? I agree with Councilwoman Tanya Siskind that there are “tons of questions.” I’m afraid that all of the talking will be in “A cone of silence …” keeping the public OUT. What else is new?
P.S. What Council meeting did the Council asked the staff to issue a request for proposals for this redevelopment. Were there any public input?
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