Vice President Andy Ford said Osceola County would fund a $50 million, 150-acre multi-use sports complex in Kissimmee, Fla., that would include retail space, Perfect Game's headquarters and 16 baseball fields. The county would fund the complex through Tourism Development Tax, and property owners are hoping to sell their land to the county.
In the Cobb scenario, Dream Parks Management, LLC, made up of five Cobb residents from various backgrounds, would handle all negotiations with potential businesses and the county for a 372-acre, $72 million tract of land in southwest Cobb. The complex would also include Perfect Game's headquarters, retail space and 16 baseball fields, but Earl Ehrhart, one of the owners of Dream Parks, said the complex would also be home to three other relevant business headquarters, which have all expressed strong interest in the complex, as well as soccer and lacrosse fields for other leagues and teams. The complex would be paid for by bonds issued by the Cobb Recreation Authority, which is made up of the Board of Commissioners.
Neither county has voted to approve the use of bonds or tax money for a complex.
If public money would be used to fund the project in Cobb or Florida, it would only be built with a contractual agreement that Perfect Game would move its headquarters and most, if not all, of its tournaments to the new site. Perfect Game would also pay a $500,000 lease each year to either Cobb County or Osceola County, and all public money spent would be paid off yearly through revenues generated at the complex.
Perfect Game is a nationally recognized high school baseball league that operates mainly in the summer. Its 88,000 players compete in tournaments in front of college and Major League Baseball scouts, said Ned Yost, co-owner of Dream Parks.
Ford said his company is still in negotiations with both counties, and has not yet signed contractual agreements with any middleman company or county. Ford also said that if the deal does not happen in Cobb and the company moves to Florida, some showcases would still be held in Cobb County, but most of the east coast tournaments would move to Florida.
"We are a tad bit ahead of the game with Cobb County, we're just waiting word on what the county would like to do," Ford said. "Florida is great because there's already a very big baseball environment and tourism industry, but we have never hosted anything in Osceola County and have been hosting several tournaments in Cobb since 2002. We have an extremely strong relationship with East Cobb baseball; they're the most influential, powerful baseball league in the country. Either would be a great choice for us."
Ehrhart said the company already uses more than 26,000 hotel rooms in Cobb per year and brings in $26 million annually in economic impact to the county.
The Cobb Board of Commissioners voted 4-0 Tuesday to allow the Development Authority of Cobb County to spend up to $450,000 on a feasibility study for the complex and its location, with the stipulation that Dream Parks would fund and complete a financial feasibility study performed by a firm of the county's choosing first.
In Kissimmee, the City Commission voted 4-1 on March 2 to loosen restrictions on the 150-acre tract of land, zoned residential, which would allow for the complex to be built on the site. According to the Kissimmee commission's agenda item from the meeting, the request now has to gain approval by the Florida Department of Community Affairs before returning to the commission for a second and final approval. The item said all of this is expected to be completed sometime this summer.
Ford would not say if his company is leaning more toward one county than another, but said they have been upfront with everyone in Cobb that if Cobb commissioners decide the project could be feasible and is willing to spend county money on the project, Cobb would "be a great choice."
"We're very excited about the Cobb board's vote on Tuesday and we're excited to call one of these two places home," Ford said. "We're more than ready to make a decision, but we have to weigh our options and see what's best and be upfront with everyone as things start happening."
Ehrhart said if the financial feasibility study for the local location shows positive results and the Development Authority decides to spend the $450,000 on further studies, Dream Parks and the authority would require Perfect Game to sign a commitment contract to move the headquarters and most tournaments to Cobb prior to the public money being spent.
Approximately 30 to 40 acres of the Cobb project would fall in the city of Powder Springs, and Mayor Pat Vaughn said she has told the Board of Commissioners she is very much in favor of the county issuing bonds to pay for the complex.
"We are very excited. This could become a really great family and fan vacation spot," Vaughn said. "The location is perfect because it will be near our new city entryway and would be an economic boom to us and the whole area. From the preliminary studies, I feel the revenues will be there."