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Bellmead to weigh $4 million ballpark funding

Bellmead to weigh $4 million ballpark funding

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Bellmead residents could soon decide how to fund the city’s $4 million share of an $11 million project to build a new home for professional baseball, concerts, festivals and charity events.

The memorandum of understanding between the city of Bellmead and Ventura Sports Group includes $4 million in funding from the city, $4 million in private enterprise and $3 million in naming rights.

Plans haven’t yet been finalized as the two entities continue to work through details on the ballpark. It would be located at Research Avenue and Loop 340, near Skate Country roller skating rink, where the city owns a 13.5-acre plot of land earmarked for future economic development.

Elected officials have had preliminary discussions about how to pay the city’s share, but likely won’t make a decision until early February as to which direction they will take, City Manager Bo Thomas said.

Thomas is developing a plan to finance that $4 million without raising property taxes or sales tax.

“That comes with a couple of caveats,” he said.

Thomas said he sees a few funding options: raising the hotel/motel tax, local borrowing or a combined effort with the help of the city’s economic development fund. Increasing the hotel/motel tax rate would require a vote by residents, he said. The city will also consider asking voters whether they want officials using the economic development sales tax dollars to fund the development of the facility, Thomas said.

If the city opts to put the decision to the voters, the council would need to decide at its February meeting to take that direction to get the matter on the May ballot.

The city has $2.7 million in reserves for economic development, Thomas said. The city has options to borrow funding, too, whether that comes in the form of a bond or is done through a local bank, he said.

Mark Schuster, managing partner of Ventura Sports Group, has said the league will consist of six franchises in midsized Texas cities. The Bellmead ballpark would include 2,000 fixed seats, with another 2,000 seats available in other locations, picnic areas, a 10,000-square-foot play zone and a permanent concert stage. The venue could host about 10,000 people for concerts and special events, Schuster has said.

Mayor Gary Moore said he fully supports the project as long as it doesn’t raise residents’ taxes — now or in the future — and is self-sufficient.

Moore said he didn’t have a lot of details on the funding aspect of the project as he and the council await Thomas’ report back. However, he said, each year after the budget is balanced the council directs staff to put some money away to save for big projects.

Moore said he doesn’t want city leaders to approach residents 10 years down the road and say, “We thought it was fantastic, but now we’re going to have to raise your taxes.”

Meanwhile, city leaders and Ventura Sports Group are drafting a development and operational agreement, which is difficult to do without knowing the full scale of the financial situation, Thomas said. Ventura Sports Group is working to handle the naming rights portion, Thomas said.

The plan is still to finish construction and open the field by April 2018.

Schuster could not be reached for comment for this story.

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