Closure Information


November 7, 2017
An Open Letter to the Players at the Big League Dreams Sports Park in Gilbert, Arizona and their Coaches, Parents, Familes and Fans


Twenty years ago this month, I founded Big League Dreams Sports Parks. My goal was to create recreational sports parks where youth and adult players could enjoy a unique experience as they participated in baseball, softball and soccer in a safe and exciting “big league” environment and their families could watch them in comfort. I now have two partners who, like me, are fathers who played baseball, coached their sons and now are involved with them in our business.

We were invited by the Town of Gilbert to enter a public-private partnership with them to maintain and operate a new Big League Dreams Sports Park in Gilbert. In 2005, the Town contractually agreed with Big League Dreams Gilbert, LLC (“BLD”) to construct the Park using “first class quality construction practices and materials” with advice we could offer from our operational experience. Inexplicably, the Town chose to not avail itself of the years of experience that BLD offered to provide and as a result spent over $40 million to construct the Park. A nearly identical Big League Dreams Park in Mansfield, Texas was constructed at the same time for about $25 million. Despite our many and repeated inquiries, the Town has never been able to explain the significant cost overruns. For added insult to the substantial expense in construction, Gilbert’s contractor built the Park with many critical construction defects – crumbling concrete and asphalt that rapidly became hazardous throughout the property; dugout drains that wouldn’t drain; eroding areas behind the dugouts; landscaping better suited for a church than a heavily used recreational park; slopes and ramps constructed too severely; poles that rusted prematurely; etc.

Despite the daily challenges of operating with these construction defects, the Park has proven to be immensely popular since its 2008 opening. In 2016 alone, forty-one (41) weekend youth tournaments were held at the Park, at which 35,827 youth (including those playing in weekly leagues) participated. As of July 1, there were roughly 2,500 softball players and 1,000 soccer players uniquely registered in BLD leagues during 2017. The Park has become a hub of community activity, with regular weddings, charity fundraisers and company parties.

The construction of the park was so shoddy, the Town sued the general contractor, whom The Town hired to build the park, and recovered nearly $14 million. BLD did not participate in that lawsuit.

In 2014 and 2015, the Town contracted for “life safety” remedial construction at the Park. Initially, the Town demanded that the Park be closed in its entirety. When BLD appealed to keep its business open, the Town relented and agreed to a two field at a time rotational closure. The plan worked – employees kept their jobs and players kept playing.

The Town then delayed the start of the remaining remedial work, which increased costs. Further, the Town failed to seek recovery from its contractor for the reconstruction of the decorative outfield walls - a defect that was pointed out to the Town long ago. Then, the Town unilaterally advised us that the Park would be closed in its entirety on September 7 for a period of 12 to 18 months for the remaining remedial repairs. (A puzzling directive considering the entire complex was built from scratch in less than a year.) BLD again objected and again proposed rotational two field closures which would enable our 85 BLD employees to keep their jobs and our patrons to keep playing. Neither Gilbert Mayor Jenn Daniels, despite personal appeals and repeated formal requests, nor any member of the Gilbert Town Council, would even meet with us to discuss a solution.

The Town also attempted to fault BLD for the condition of the Park despite having collected $14 million from its contractor for faulty construction. The Town expressed M.A. Mortenson’s negligent construction thusly in that litigation: “[n]either the Town nor BLD-Gilbert can ‘preserve’ or ‘keep’ the ‘existing’ features in good repair throughout their useful life, because Mortenson designed and constructed the features in a defective condition with little or no useful life.” (Source: Town of Gilbert’s Response to M.A. Mortenson’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, filed on May 30, 2014)

Just how were we to maintain defective and crumbling concrete? Furthermore, why would BLD be asked by the Town to spend money for capital projects when they had told us that the Park would be closed for as long as 18 months? Doing so would make absolutely no sense. Again, despite our repeated requests for a meeting, the Town refused to simply meet to discuss a cooperative effort for resolution.

During the period of time when BLD was seeking to meet with the Town, BLD also advised the Town that it would abide by any court order concerning the closure of the Park. Rather than seek such an order, the Town declared the Park unsafe and then, using this declaration as a pretext, closed the Park using its municipal police powers. On July 7, without advance warning to us or our players or teams, with a strong showing of police force and while threatening to remove the general manager who was trying to provide notice to those persons who were traveling to a scheduled tournament, the Town seized the Park. The Town officials made it clear that the general manager would be physically escorted off the property by Town police and that if he refused he would be subject to arrest. Despite being aware of this issue long before, the Town suddenly asserted that bolts used to anchor the decorative outfield walls were ¼” shorter than specified. Then, it retained an “expert” to opine that the bolts “could” create a safety hazard during the monsoon season. A second engineering firm did a “peer review” of the first report for the Town without, it appears, ever inspecting the Park or forming an independent opinion. The Town’s attorney even explained in open court that patrons at the Park were at risk of “flying projectiles” from the graphics used on the decorative walls. It is important to note that these very same bolts had been in place for over ten (10) years with no sign of a reduction in strength.

BLD, at its own expense, retained the well regarded structural engineering firm of Caruso Turley Scott, Inc. to evaluate the alleged safety concerns. The firm first inspected the Park and noted, “…I would give a grade of ‘A’ to the steel columns, steel column bases, and the walls regarding their structural integrity.” There was no evidence of weakness in any of the supports, and all tested well above the safety standard required by the Town’s building code. The reports of the Caruso Turley Scott firm, and pictures of the load testing, can be found on the BLD website (http://gilbert.bigleaguedreams.com/closure-info) or on the BLD Facebook page (http://www.fb.com/BLDGilbert). Additional pictures are soon to follow.

Since the forcible takeover of the Park, no construction activity has been observed. The Town did circulate photos of alleged BLD maintenance failures in an attempt to deflect blame for its original and remedial construction mismanagement. Deceptively, many of these photos were taken after the forcible seizure of the Park (when BLD could no longer access the Park to maintain it) or of original construction defects yet to be remedied.

Our company now has 11 Big League Dreams Sports Parks in four states. In the 20 years we have operated, we have never been sued by one of our public partners or ever filed a lawsuit against one. For over 18 months Mayor Daniels and the rest of the Town Council have refused to meet with BLD in order to negotiate a reasonable solution to the construction issues, forcing us to file an action for relief in Arizona Superior Court. We will continue to fight to re-open the Park for our players, employees, tournament directors and especially the youngsters in the community who, with every passing day, continue to miss out on the opportunity to live out their Big League Dreams. We are extremely grateful for your loyal patronage over the past decade and we are overwhelmed by the tidal wave of support we’ve received from you. It is truly humbling.

Jeff Odekirk
Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer
Big League Dreams USA, LLC

 


September 11, 2017
BIG LEAGUE DREAMS RELEASES STRUCTURAL ENGINEERING REPORT
Gilbert, Arizona – Big League Dreams (BLD) has released a Structural Engineering Report, which confirms that all eight fields at the Big League Dreams Sports Park in Gilbert, Arizona are in good structural condition. Caruso Turley Scott’s principal Paul Scott PE, SE has concluded that the grandstands “pose no immediate risk to the public and are safe to be used by the public.”
“This study should convince the Gilbert Town Council to conduct repairs on a rotational basis and reconsider their position of padlocking the Park,” says BLD spokesman Chuck Jelloian.
BLD has elected to conduct full scale load-bearing tests on 11 grandstand columns at their expense. “This report refutes past claims the Town has made regarding alleged unsafe conditions of the facility,” Jelloian says.
Gilbert abruptly closed the Park for repairs on July 7. BLD has attempted numerous times to meet with Town officials in an effort to keep the fields open while repairs are being made, but these efforts have yet to be successful. To date, 87 employees have been laid off.
Throughout the United States BLD enjoys an excellent reputation and intends to do everything in its power to protect its brand. The Gilbert Park has hundreds of supporters from the public, including family members, teams, vendors, and sponsors. BLD’s management is committed to passing along important and factual information to Gilbert’s residents, policymakers and 300,000 annual visitors.
The complete engineering report is available for viewing below.