Jonathan Byrd’s pulls back from big role in Grand Park

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In its request for proposals on March 3, Westfield valued Grand Park at just less than $204 million. (IBJ file photo)

Jonathan Byrd’s is backing away from Grand Park Sports Campus—a venue where it was expanding its presence less than a year ago.

Jonathan Byrd II, business development director of Byrd Enterprises Inc., confirmed Monday that the Byrd family's companies have ended almost all of their involvement with the 400-acre youth sports development in Westfield—largely providing food service under the well-known Jonathan Byrd's name.

For the past three years, the Byrd companies have been integrally involved in Grand Park, which, beyond its sprawling outdoor sports fields, includes an indoor soccer facility known as Grand Park Events Center and a basketball and volleyball facility named Jonathan Byrd's Fieldhouse.

Until Jan. 29, Jonathan Byrd's operated food service in both indoor complexes, and the company was involved in event management and marketing for the events center. Byrd Hotel Enterprises also had considered constructing a 180-room hotel within the campus.

“We have a great relationship with the city, and we have much admiration for the city of Westfield, as well as for Grand Park and all that is going on,” Byrd said in an email. “While we appreciate our relationships with all those involved and have enjoyed working within Westfield and Grand Park, it was during an evaluation of our long term business plans that we determined that the company would no longer remain at the Park.”

On Jan. 29, the company stopped offering food service in the events center. The company is still operating food service at the Jonathan Byrd’s Fieldhouse, but that could change as well.

“We are also evaluating this in conjunction with all of our long term business strategies,” Byrd said.

In addition, Jonathan Byrd's Event & Entertainment LLC, which had been a partnership created with Indianapolis-based LST Marketing LLC to provide event scheduling and management services at the events center, is no longer working for the city. Instead, LST Marketing is solely managing events and the events center.

Jonathan Byrd's sudden about-face is surprising, given how deeply involved it has been with Westfield and Grand Park since the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the city-owned and -developed campus in June 2014.

At that event, Westfield Mayor Andy Cook announced plans for the indoor soccer facility and said the Greenwood-based institution would provide a “sizable” food component in the building.

The relationship grew from there. In July 2015, Jonathan Byrd’s agreed to a 10-year deal with the indoor basketball and volleyball facility's developers for the naming rights, concession-stand management and space for a food court. Jonathan Byrd's Fieldhouse is privately owned and operated by a group of investors led by entrepreneur Andy Card.

The cost of the naming rights has not been disclosed. It was not clear Monday morning whether the fieldhouse would retain the Jonathan Byrd's name.

Also in 2015, the company responded to a request for proposals issued by the city for a hotel project at Grand Park. By November of that year, the city started to move forward with the response from Byrd Hotel Enterprises for a five-story, 180-room hotel.

Construction had been expected to start quickly, with the hotel opening by July 2016, but work never started.

Last month, Grand Park officials said the hotel has been put on hold because of other hotel projects already under way in Westfield.

Byrd said Monday that the hotel project “has been paused for now and will be re-evaluated in the future.”

In April 2016, Jonathan Byrd’s announced the partnership with LST Marketing and the creation of Jonathan Byrd's Event & Entertainment LLC. The company was expected to work with the city to operate the events center. The five-year agreement, which is now only with LST Marketing, is expected to cost the city close to $1.6 million in total.

In June 2016—just one month before the events center was scheduled to open—the city issued a request for proposals for a restaurant and catering business, even though it had announced the partnership with Jonathan Byrd’s in 2014. The request was written in such a way that all but ensured  Jonathan Byrd's would be selected and, as expected, it was the only company to respond.

The agreement included 10,570 square feet on the first floor for a restaurant and catering operation and 5,046 square feet on the second floor for a lounge and seating area that is served by the first-floor restaurant.

Both restaurant areas have been open at the events center, but the first-floor restaurant recently cut back its hours and stopped serving lunch.

Grand Park officials told IBJ last month that the lunchtime crowd wasn’t strong enough, but the restaurant was still open during the evening when more activity was taking place at the facility.

“The evening hours are extremely busy,” Grand Park Director William Knox said.

Westfield spokeswoman Erin Murphy said food service has continued without interruption since Jonathan Byrd's exit. Urick Concessions, which operates the park's outdoor food operations, has been managing the concession area on the first floor of the events center.

The city also has a short-term agreement in place with Westfield Restaurant Group LLC, which is led by Birch Dalton and Bob Taylor, to operate the upstairs lounge.

The city is in the process of negotiating a long-term agreement with Westfield Restaurant Group that could include managing the first-floor restaurant area and second-level lounge. The first-floor area could be remodeled into a food court with multiple vendors, according to Murphy.

"The city administration and the Grand Park staff are committed to the success of Grand Park and the Grand Park Events Center. We have listened to the feedback from our Grand Park visitors and what they want is more flexibility and food options," Murphy said in an official statement. "The city is in current discussions with investors who want to operate a food court in the Grand Park Events Center. The city looks forward to this new and exciting opportunity."

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