(UPDATE — 4/23/2020: the City Council postponed a discussion and vote on the Granite Park lease to a future, unspecified date. Councilman Mike Karbassi removed himself as a sponsor.
Granite Park, the city-owned central Fresno sports facility operated by the Central Valley Community Sports Foundation, is expected to transfer to a new nonprofit foundation.
The Fresno City Council is scheduled to vote Thursday on a lease with a new nonprofit, the Granite Park Sports Complex. The group formed in December, according to paperwork filed with the state.
The council will also vote on a $200,000 allocation for operations at Granite Park, but documents don’t specify how that money would be spent.
These are just two elements from mitigation with CVCSF to settle a claim the foundation filed against the city relating to a 2019 financial audit.
The city is in the middle of a 25-year lease with CVCSF to operate the park. The city also pays CVCSF $150,000 a year through the first 10 years. That amount will increase.
If the council approves the deal, that lease will be broken in favor of the new agreement with GPSC.
Details of the New Lease
The lease document, released Monday afternoon, would terminate the city’s contract with CVCSF, still leaving in elements of the original terms.
“The real goal of the whole mitigation is making sure (Granite Park) continues to be a sustainable asset for the community.” — Fresno City Councilman Mike Karbassi
It will remain 25 years, backdated to 2015, with five- or 10-year renewals thereafter.
The agreement calls for $62,500 of rent per year — with an annual 2.75% increase, but with a $2.7 million credit for the work that CVCSF has already invested in Granite Park.
Starting next year, the city will increase its yearly subsidy to $250,000. Instead of 10 years, it will now be 25 years.
The nonprofit will also receive a one-time retroactive payment of $200,000. It is unclear if that is the same $200,000 the council will vote on Thursday. The city will also make a one-time $150,000 deferred maintenance payment.
The new foundation will also retain the right to erect and sell billboards. Granite Park abuts Highway 168 and is highly visible to traffic. GPSC will keep the first $80,000 in billboard revenue, and split the rest with the city 50-50.
Billboard revenue was another sore spot between CVCSF and the city, with the nonprofit’s president, Terance Frazier, saying that city inaction cost him at least $60,000 a year.
“I think this is more a reflection of terrible leadership on Mayor Brand’s part.” — Councilman Garry Bredefeld
The city will also provide a $100,000 annual credit for utilities.
In return, Frazier agreed to drop his pending claims against the city.
The city would be able to pick a representative on the new foundation according to councilman Mike Karbassi, but the details aren’t spelled out in the new agreement.
Frazier declined to comment for this story.
A Controversial Audit
Councilmen Karbassi and Miguel Arias, along with Mayor Lee Brand, are sponsoring the action.
“The real goal of the whole mitigation is making sure it continues to be a sustainable asset for the community,” Karbassi said.
When CVCSF asked the city to double its subsidy in 2018, the city performed an audit that produced less-than-complimentary results. While the audit found poor bookkeeping practices, it did not find any laws broken.
At that time, Frazier said that his foundation complied with bookkeeping rules, and called the audit faulty. He later filed a claim against the city.
CVCSF initially asked for $10 million in damages. The amount later was amended to “damages exceeds $10,000” because specific amounts aren’t required to file a claim against the city.
The city attorney last year confirmed that the foundation was in good standing to operate the sports park.
Councilman Garry Bredefeld has constantly criticized Granite Park operations based on the 2019 audit. He says the issues raised about CVCSF’s recordkeeping were not addressed nor rectified.
“Why would the city of Fresno and its elected leadership enter into an agreement where we’re giving that same person, that same organization over $200,000 more?” Bredefeld said
Bredefeld wondered if the deal would happen if the government wasn’t involved.
“I think if they were crafting the deal privately instead of using taxpayer money, they might hesitate a little bit more,” Bredefeld said. “I think this is more a reflection of terrible leadership on Mayor Brand’s part, and frankly, people who support this really will have to explain why they’re willing to ignore the January 2019 audit.”