Plans for turning the outdated and little-used Wellington Community Park into a state-of-the-art sports training facility moved forward on Tuesday, June 13 when the Wellington Village Council authorized the issuance of up to $34 million in bonds to fund the project.
The project will be built and operated through a public-private partnership between the village and football star Jon Bostic through his company Wellington Athletics. While Wellington is issuing the bonds, they will be paid back by Bostic and his company.
Attorney Skip Miller with the firm Greenspoon Marder, the village’s bond counsel, led the presentation.
“This specifically authorizes the Series 2023 bonds for the Wellington Athletics project. It sets parameters that cannot be exceeded,” he explained.
The interest rate is capped at 6.75 percent and the total cannot exceed $34 million. However, Miller said that the bonds are expected to come in well below those figures, both for the interest rate and total revenue.
The council asked for assurances that the bond money will not need to be paid back from taxpayer funds. Miller said that the village is guaranteeing the money and would need to pay it back should Wellington Athletics not be able to, but there are a number of assurances built into a companion agreement with Bostic’s company to make sure that does not happen, such as a licensing fee that will be used to pay the debt service.
“This is a very common and well-established way to borrow money,” Miller said. “We are very comfortable with the transaction the way it is now structured.”
Furthermore, the village will retain ownership of the land and can take control of the property and its improvements in the unlikely event that the public-private partnership fails.
“This achieves the most financial benefit for both us and Wellington Athletics,” Mayor Anne Gerwig said. “It allows us to go to the marketplace at a competitive rate.”
While the risk is limited, Gerwig noted that some risk does exist, but it is mitigated by the fact that the village keeps ownership of the land.
“It is our property. We hold the property. It’s our improvements. We hold the improvements,” she said.
Councilman John McGovern agreed.
“We are updating and modernizing a property that we have wanted to update and modernize. We are just doing it sooner than we would have done it because we have this partner,” he said.
Village Attorney Laurie Cohen noted that there is a “backstop agreement” between Bostic and Wellington Athletics that confirms that Bostic will pay the money necessary to service the debt should the company not be profitable.
“He will be paying the license fee,” Cohen said, adding that it will be approximately $1 million per year. “If we needed to, we could enforce that.”
The two items were approved unanimously.
Bostic and members of his team were in attendance, but they did not speak. A groundbreaking for the new facility is planned for this summer.
The project site, currently called Wellington Community Park, is located at 3401 South Shore Blvd. It was previously home to the Wellington Boys & Girls Club but has been largely unused since the club moved to a new location in 2013.
Since then, the site has fallen into disrepair. It will officially close to the public on Tuesday, June 20 as preparations for the new sports training facility get underway.