Friday, December 16, 2016

OWA-T Could Go Wrong With This Idea

The Escambia County Commission and City Council are being presented with a plan to replace the aging Pensacola Bay Center with a new 130,000 square foot complex with an event area, sports hall, conference space and meeting rooms.

 "(Ray) Palmer estimated the cost to build such a facility could range between $80-100 million."

$100,000,000!  Makes the Maritime Park look like a bargain!

The drawing depicts a basketball arena seating 5,000 (for our basketball team) and eight volleyball / basketball courts evidently trying to attract sports tournaments.

While something must be done with the aging Bay Center, this idea and concept may have been beaten to the market when you see the $500 million destination development the Poarch Band of Creek Indians are doing in Foley/Gulf Shores.

See the flythrough video. It's amazing

The OWA development will have:

  • a 150 room Marriott
  • restaurants
  • shopping
  • 3,500 jobs
  • $40,000,000 sports complex with 16 state of the art outdoor fields
  • 90,000 square foot indoor events center to open in 2017
  • 9 miles from the beach
  • on a beach expressway
  • with an amusement park
  • with a waterpark
  • with a condo complex
  • and an RV resort

"The two projects will provide a seamless experience for "sports families" who travel to the area specifically for tournaments, but who will avail themselves of opportunities offered by Owa to entertain the entire family."

Pensacola's version presented this week while unbuilt and years away, may seem handicapped off the bat.

Lets look at them head to head:

  • New Marriott vs. the Grand
  • New restaurants onsite vs. Carabba's, Waffle House and Newk's
  • Shopping onsite vs. Duh!
  • 16 outdoor fields vs. the Tech Park
  • Indoor events center open in 2017 vs. trying to lure events from OWA
  • 9 miles from the beach vs. 6 miles from the beach with a bridge under contruction for 5 years
  • on beach expressway vs. on WD Childers Plaza and Chase Blvd
  • Amusement Park vs. St Michael's Cemetery
  • Waterpark vs. Fountain at the drop off point
  • Condo Complex vs, Aragon
  • RV resort vs. parking lot parking.
I applaud the thoughts of the presenters but we may be late and under financed to play at this party. But as Grover says, there are always BP funds.

Count me in!  But we will need some new "fantasy renderings" for the DeWeezel to come out of retirement.


Anonymous said...

If Ray Palmer estimates the cost to be between $80-$100 million you can be sure that the actual cost will be between $160 and $200 million.

The first highly questionable conclusion is that the present Civic Center site is the "best" site. It is only the "best" site for the Grand Hotel, downtown bar owners, and the GOB's who pay Ray Palmer's salary. Like the baseball stadium scam, this project ignores parking. Other obvious deficiencies include a lack of expansion possibilities and a lack of onsite accommodations. (The lack of onsite accommodations is exactly what the Grand Hotel and the downtown bar owners like about this site.)

Is there even a reason for this scheme to exist? Is there a market for tournaments with 8 basketball (or 16 volleyball) courts? Tournaments needing this type of facility would be made up of 100 to 200 teams. Unlike soccer, basketball teams are entirely from school systems. Where are the school systems that would be capable of spending this kind of money? And what happens in the off season when these sports are not even played at the schools? How many months will this huge building sit empty? Our elected officials should take a good, hard look before committing to something like this.

BTW, the DeWeezel will come out of retirement as soon as someone pays him.

Anonymous said...

We'll know if they are serious when they start hiring (and paying) the big time sports facility consultants. These guys mostly have a special kind of smarminess to them inasmuch as the conclusion they reach is that the market is virtually limitless, the costs are able to be offset by user fees and that local government will experience "a win" because they will never need to cover the operational costs because the place will be totally self-sustainable."

These consultants get paid well to tell their tales, and tales they do tell. You'll never find a recorded outcome from their work where the conclusion was, "Nope, we don't recommend the city of _______ consider such a boondoggle." Even though this would be the correct conclusion in the vast majority of their efforts, and in those situations where such a facility makes sense - they don't hire these guys because they don't need to.

So, watch out for consultants bearing feasibility reports.

Gregory Rettig said...

Anon.... you are right mostly... but there is actually a TON of travel volleyball and a fairly robust travel basketball system too. We are a day late and a dollar short on the soccer/baseball gravy train. Gulf Shores/OB/Foley and Destin beat our brakes off on that one.

Cleggly said...

Build an exhibition hall on the east parking lot. The ramps would stay and connect the buildings. Sink 10 million in cosmetics and additional seating, maybe knock out the sound and north end walls and replace with sound insulated glass. Change the dynamics of what it could look like from the inside looking out. The place has allowed civic pride and should be refurbished.

Anonymous said...


The News Journal reports the following:

"A feasibility study completed early this year predicted the facility would host sports tournaments 35 to 41 weekends a year, generate about 50,000 hotel-room bookings in Escambia County and result in $25 million in annual economic impact on the region."

QUESTION: Who wrote this "feasibility study" and have they ever visited Pensacola?

I have lived long enough to have seen ALL of this before.

1. "The Louisiana Super Dome will be used 365 days a year."
2. A baseball stadium in Pensacola will be used every weekend to host everything from lacrosse tournaments to Ping-Pong tournaments.
3. Rick Harper, Ph.D. states that a baseball stadium in Pensacola will bring $100 million a year into the city's coffers. Rick Harper, Ph.D. is now employed by the beneficiary of the baseball stadium.

Ray Palmer, promoter extraordinaire, now says that this building will sit empty for only 11 weekends a year. Should we believe him? Who is pushing this nonsense?

Anonymous said...

Gregory Rettig -

I understand the popularity of travel volleyball (which is why I left it out of my sermon). I am a firm believer that a concept that incorporates certain traveling sports teams (soccer, volleyball, spirit teams, softball, etc.) CAN work. I also know that it is easy for this concept to be a spectacular FLOP, especially if the economics are wrong.

This area once had one of the few traveling sports venues in the nation. It was called the Pensacola Soccer Complex. It was hugely successful as a sports complex and a huge failure from a business standpoint.

The most negative part of Ray Palmer's plan is that the entire scheme will be mired in Escambia County politics where the usual cast of characters will have their hands out. And don't forget that once all the money has been doled out to special interests this facility still has to be operated properly or it will fail. You can bet your bottom dollar that it won't be operated properly if local politicians have their finger in the pie. Just look at Studer Stadium and the adjacent amphitheater to get a glimpse at what happens when local governments try to run entertainment complexes. Actually, you can just look at the existing Civic Center to see a good example of a poorly run county facility. They are not going to do any better with a more expensive and more complicated business (and it is a business).

- Anon

Anonymous said...

First, we already don't get many bigger acts because the seating capacity of our existing Civic Center is only 10,000 seats. This plan reduces the seating capacity to 5,000 seats? So, we will only have sports and no more music concerts? That would be horrible for our community.
Second, if the Grand Hotel is REALLY trying to book rooms, they could help people find it by having a sign. For months now, there is no name on the marque on the building or on the roadside sign. It looks like it is closed. Dead landscaping at the entrance for months. Please don't tell me that they are changing names, that has been for months now. Every other successful business orders their signs and makes the change seamlessly and doesn't leave an empty sign on the street. Also, if the Civic Center drove hotel traffic, then the Carlton Palms Hotel wouldn't have gone under and been turned into apartments years ago. The taxpayers are not financing another "Field of Dreams" so save the fantasy renderings.