Bullpen Tournaments still under review in Westfield, OK’d to expand to Kokomo

Keywords Hamilton County

Even as the Westfield Redevelopment Commission continues its review of the city’s relationship with Bullpen Tournaments LLC, the company is now cleared to extend its services to a new park.

The Westfield Redevelopment Commission voted unanimously during Wednesday’s special session to table two petitions that could retroactively formalize the city’s informal agreements with Westfield-based Bullpen Tournaments, the company responsible for managing the Grand Park Sports Campus’ ball diamonds.

The commission did approve a third petition related to Bullpen by a split vote, meaning the Westfield-based business will now be allowed to enter into an agreement to manage overflow tournament games at Kokomo’s Championship Park.

“Essentially, what will happen is Championship Park will become an extension of what already takes place at Grand Park,” Grand Park Director William Knox said.

The eight-field complex in Kokomo will allow for an additional 50 to 100 teams to participate in tournaments that would’ve otherwise been unable to find space at Grand Park, Knox said.

Members appointed by the city’s administration—President Joe Plankis, Secretary Jill Doyle and Dan Holtz—voted in favor of the petition. Brian Ferguson and Bob Beaudry, the commission’s council appointees, voted against it.

Under the city’s 2014 agreement with Bullpen, the redevelopment commission and Bullpen receive commissions from nearby hotels that benefit from the tournaments. According to a third-party company, the redevelopment commission could receive an estimated $150,000 of the anticipated $200,000 generated each year by that agreement.

That 2014 management agreement between Westfield and Bullpen was the subject of the remainder of the meeting, and the source of much disagreement.

Westfield City Council Member Troy Patton first publicly alleged in July 2020 that Bullpen had failed to meet the standards of its contract, and that it owed the city $470,000 as of May 31.

Mayor Andy Cook responded by saying the city had reached an alternative, informal agreement with Bullpen. He then vetoed the council’s attempt at additional oversight of the park’s contracts and launched a third-party financial review of all city practices.

The State Board of Accounts filed a supplemental compliance report late last year to expound upon its review of Westfield’s 2018 finances that indicated city officials failed to comply with state laws and guidelines, and that the city’s informal contracts with Bullpen were never properly memorialized.

The terms of the official management agreement between the city and Bullpen in 2014 originally required an escalating percentage of the company’s revenues would be owed to the city’s redevelopment commission. Knox said the amounts collected were: $41,283 in 2015, $97,145 in 2016 and $130,000 in 2017.

Had an informal agreement in which Bullpen assumed additional maintenance duties in lieu of those payments not been struck for the years 2018 to 2020, Knox said, the city would’ve collected a total $703,000 from Bullpen.

Instead, Knox said expenses related to that maintenance increased and, had Bullpen not taken over those duties for the three year period, the city would’ve paid a total $957,000.

“Even though, let’s say we got sloppy with the paperwork and all the rest of that, the net financial effect is a $253,000 positive, as I see it,” Plankis said.

Beaudry, who proposed tabling the administration’s petition, said he was concerned by the way in which those numbers were presented. He and Ferguson said they’d asked for those numbers well in advance of the meeting.

“We’re getting fed all of these numbers when we’re put up against a wall to make these decisions and it’s something we should’ve had from the beginning. I honestly don’t know what to think at this point,” he said. “I don’t really know how these numbers were derived or where they came from.”

Though Beaudry requested official documentation outlining those owed amounts, Plankis said he has a different approach.

“I’ve operated with the philosophy that I’ve worked these people for 20 years and I trust them,” he said. “Unlike some people in city government, I trust these people because I know what they’re made of and they’re working forthe citizens of Westfield 100% of the time.”

The commission is scheduled to revisit that petition and another related to the field’s management at its April 14 meeting. In the meantime, members have asked for additional information about Bullpen’s past financials and how it will report those items moving forward.

“To me, from a business standpoint, I would not prefer to enter into another agreement with a party who has already been breaching the current agreements we have,” Ferguson said. “It’s fair enough, I think, to find out whether there has already been a breach in the current agreements we have before we enter into new ones.”

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