Big League Dreams - when all is said and done - is owned by the City Of Manteca.
The city hired BLD to design the sports complex and entered into a lease for them to operate and maintain it for 35 years.
Part of the deal allows the city to have use of the facility up to three times a year for events.
That means revenue from a Fourth of July celebration at the Manteca BLD wasn’t exactly factored into the BLD business plan when it opened.
There is a $2 admission charge for anyone age 13 and older to access the city-sponsored Independence Day celebration that ends with aerial fireworks. Between 6,000 and 10,000 folks pass through the gate each Fourth of July.
The usual charge to access BLD is $4. But this is not a BLD event. It is a City of Manteca event. The BLD and city split the gate admission on the Fourth of July. So let’s say in the worst case scenario when 6,000 people pay to get in that 1,000 are 12 and under and get in free. That leaves $10,000 in gate revenue with $5,000 going to the city to offset the tab for the celebration that can push $30,000 when all is said and done while BLD gets $5,000.Manteca’s cut last year of the Fourth of July gate was $5,624.
Manteca’s elected leaders now believe BLD should cough up some money toward the actual expenses the city incurs staging the Fourth of July event that helps bring more business to BLD concessions.
Keep in mind the city already gets revenue from BLD based on income from the gate, concessions as well as team registrations and such. The city gets 16 percent of the concessions. That came to $335,744.70 in the fiscal year ending June 30. That goes to pay off park fees used to help pay for part of the BLD construction. In less than two years, all of that money will flow to the city’s general fund.
Before the city started bashing BLD - essentially a contracted business partner - in public they should have asked them first if they were willing to pitch in or even rethink the gate arrangement for that day.
You can’t put the proverbial cows back in the barn, though.
To make sure a three-ring circus isn’t created, the city needs to quickly address the two major points.
First, they need to see if they can rethink gate admissions that day instead of strong-arming BLD for a donation that may or may not satisfy critics.
The other - and the most serious point - is to make sure no law has been broken.
Council member Debby Moorhead brings up a serious concern when she said in no uncertain terms that she had observed BLD personnel pouring beer to people who were under 21 during a previous city-sponsored Fourth of July event.
The best way to have handled this would have been to go to BLD management immediately after the alleged serving of underage drinkers had been observed. It can’t be verified or even disputed to any degree of certainty at this late date.
The sports complex is still a city park. The Fourth of July celebration is a city event. The city shares almost the same level of responsibility if underage drinking happened during a city-sponsored event at a city-owned park regardless of the lease arrangement with BLD.
The public should expect assurances that this will not happen again even if it requires Manteca Police periodically conducting “sting” operations using Explorers or other under-age volunteers attempting to buy beer at BLD.
BLD still has control - as it should - of soda and various food concessions. They still should have veto power over what other food items are sold at the park. That’s a given considering it is clearly spelled out in their 35-year contract.
The beauty of BLD is that it is operated as a business and it helps the city avoid operation and maintenance costs while providing the community with a top notch recreational facility.
That said, Moorhead has leveled a serious charge about underage drinking that should not get lost in the rumble over whether BLD is doing enough to help defray Fourth of July celebration costs.
This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209-249-3519.