The Amarillo City Council voted to approve the nearly $4.6 million for requested upgrades to Hodgetown (MPEV) by Major League Baseball. $4 million will come from a Hot Tax Bond issued this past March. The $595,000 will be paid by the Elmore Sports Group.
However, it is what took place prior to the vote that was interesting, to say the least.
After a presentation of the specifics concerning the requested monies and improvements/enhancements to the ballpark, Interim City Manager Andrew Freeman told the council he would be willing to field questions.
“I have a few questions.” Councilman Tom Scherlen wasted no time taking Freeman up on his offer. Scherlen proceeded to express his dissatisfaction with the demands, asking if it was possible for him to, “make a demand to appeal any of that?”
Freeman outlined how MLB scores the needs it considers necessary for parks to operate at its standard, adding that while there were city representatives on hand along with the Elmore Sports Group to negotiate the score down to what was settled on, the city was not able to take part in that negotiation.
Among the improvements to be made are dedicated locker and shower spaces for females, increased square footage for shared workout areas, food service break areas for each team as well as for visiting team coaches, and additional safety netting and padding on outfield walls.
Councilman Josh Craft asked Freeman if, down the road, the league keeps asking for millions to be poured into the MPEV, would the city just keep issuing revenue bonds and could the city support this? Freeman replied, “I think eventually we would not be able to support, continue to fund” using Hot Tax money. Freeman added this might lead to a difficult conversation at that point, which could include whether we keep a team or it moves on.
$15 million is already earmarked for park improvements after 10 years as per the agreement between MLB and the Elmore Sports Group. As Freeman put it, that money is more to refresh, the money being requested now is more “tweaks to the existing facility.”
Mayor Cole Stanley made clear he would like to see the city on the same team as the Elmore Sports Group so as to be in a better position to negotiate in the future.
When the vote was taken on the matter, there were 4 votes for, one against. The lone “No” was cast loud and clear by Craft, which met with the approval of Tom Scherlen.