Were Reverchon Park RFPs Doing Bidder’s Bidding?

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Source: December 1, 2016 Park Board Briefing

In December 2016, the Friends of Reverchon Park briefed the city Parks Department about how they “proposed the redevelopment of the existing [baseball] field by means of a long term agreement with a self-funded private entity.”

As you can see from the slide above delivered at that meeting, Friends of Reverchon had some specific parameters of what a redeveloped Reverchon Ball Field should encompass. Given the existing facility had seating for 700, I’m left to wonder how it was decided that it should grow to 2,400 seats? How was that number arrived at? Without a ballfield guru on staff, who woke up one morning in 2016 with this epiphany to scrape the ballfield, replace it with 2,400 seats, and lease it out?

Source: 2018 Reverchon Ball Park RFP

Ballpark Designs Deja Vu

Wherever that came from, it found its way into the initial 2018 RFP. That RFP was issued on January 17, 2018, with a 30-day response window. That 30-day window garnered a single reply from Mark Schuster’s Reverchon Sports and Entertainment LLC (not to be confused with Donnie Nelson’s Reverchon Park Sports and Entertainment LLC).

While Park Board president Calvert Collins-Bratton commented that “a response time of 30 days is normal for City projects,” that’s never sat right with me. It’s one thing if the city is looking for a supplier of wagon wheel sized toilet paper rolls or flesh-eating hand soap, but for multimillion-dollar, non-commodity items, it seems a perilously short window to get a lot of ducks in a row.

What seems more likely is that Friends of Reverchon was in communication with Schuster’s group (coincidentally founded in 2016) before making their December 2016 proposal to the city that met Schuster’s needs. After all, Schuster, Southwest League president, was answering the RFP in the same timestream that his Southwest League was attempting to launch its inaugural season with six new franchises (of which Reverchon Park was to have housed one). After a series of financial issues, the three-year-old league appears to have ceased operations in 2019 before more than the initial team got off the groud.

And if there was any doubt of Schuster’s intentions for Reverchon beyond baseball, after being awarded the RFP, he was quoted in Ballpark Digest, “I applaud the Dallas Parks Department and Dallas City Council for having the vision to transform Reverchon Park into an entertainment destination.” [Emphasis mine.]

Maybe this is all just coincidence?

Source: 2019 Reverchon Athletic Field RFP

Spoiler Alert: It’s Probably Not a Coincidence

Enter the 2019 RFP and its expanded and changed parameters. The 2018 RFP failed when Mark Schuster’s financing collapsed, not seemingly because it was too small and used real grass.

So how did the city know that the only way to attract another lone bidder (in another 30-day response window) was to increase the seating to 3,500, add artificial turf, reconfigurable lighting, and spell out that the field would be “a multipurpose and reconfigurable support facility”?

Of course, if you believe Collins-Bratton’s comment that, “There was no substantial change between the first and second RFPs …” it’s easy to see a 46 percent increase in scale and the other changes as inconsequential.

But to me, these changes seem not only consequential but awfully specific. Almost as though the RFP was tailored to the respondent’s specs. It would also make sense as to how an entity could put together a profitable $10-15 million development deal in fewer than 30 days.

Once may be a coincidence. But twice?

What Do You Think?

I reached out to Parks Board president Calvert Collins Bratton and the Friends of Reverchon Park’s president Lori Ashmore Peters with specific questions. As of press time, Friends of Reverchon has not responded, but a weekend back-and-forth with Collins-Bratton netted these responses.

Me: Did the briefing notes (from the December 1, 2016 briefing) reflect that Friends of Reverchon Park was already in discussions with Mark Schuster’s group before the December meeting? It seems curious that the parameters suggested in December and that wound up in the 2018 RFP were what Schuster’s group needed.

Collins-Bratton: I did not join the Park Board until October 2017, so I was not in the first briefing related to a potential RFP in December 2016. I do remember when Mark Schuster presented to the Park Board in June 2018 for the briefing and vote, there were several representatives from Friends of Reverchon Park in the gallery, and one who spoke in favor of the deal. Like I said, I had very little knowledge of that RFP; you might reach out to Jesse Moreno since it’s his district and he’s been on the Board since 2015.

Me: Who suggested and what was the reasoning for the increases in scope in the 2019 RFP? The lack of those changes don’t seem to have been a contributing factor in the first RFP winner’s overall business failure.

Collins-Bratton: Similarly, I had no knowledge of any change in scope to the second RFP. I remember disappointment that Schuster’s group couldn’t raise the money (which we questioned him about extensively during the June 2018 briefing and vote), so it was my understanding that Park staff reissued the RFP based on hearing of other potential interest in reviving the idea.

At the end of our exchange I wrote: I just can’t see someone waking up one morning, checking the city’s RFPs and thinking, “Gee, I’ll build a ballfield” and get everything together in a month.

Collins-Bratton: I understand your questioning, but both of these proposers are in the ballpark/minor league sports operation business around the country. So, they are more accustomed to municipal processes and deadlines than just anyone who would haphazardly want to build a new ballpark. 

Unasked: But how did they know about the RFP in the first place? I can’t imagine either of these groups scouring the city’s RFPs to see if there’s something they’re interested in.


And that’s the question.

How and when did these groups know? Did they influence the RFP’s creation? And is it a problem?

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Jon Anderson

Jon Anderson is CandysDirt.com's condo/HOA and developer columnist, but also covers second home trends on SecondShelters.com. An award-winning columnist, Jon has earned silver and bronze awards for his columns from the National Association of Real Estate Editors in both 2016, 2017 and 2018. When he isn't in Hawaii, Jon enjoys life in the sky in Dallas.

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Comments

  1. JD says

    “How did these groups know?” Try to keep up, Jon.

    It was all over the media. Obviously you don’t listen to The Ticket and the Jack White/Warstick game with the Reverchon Rats where the radio guys were talking about what a cool park and how it needed help for the big baseball field. Then came the 1st RFP and several articles by different publications:
    https://www.dallasobserver.com/music/jack-white-and-the-ticket-will-face-off-in-a-game-of-baseball-at-reverchon-park-10618753
    https://dallasvoice.com/reverchon-ballpark-re-do-not-set-in-stone-yet/
    https://dallasvoice.com/reverchon-ballpark-re-do/
    https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2018/01/25/if-you-ve-ever-wanted-to-run-dallas-oldest-most-beloved-field-of-dreams-here-s-your-chance/
    https://ballparkdigest.com/2018/07/02/southwest-league-announces-dallas-team/
    https://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/downtown-dallas-will-soon-be-home-to-pro-baseball-you-can-help-name-the-team/76464/
    https://marketscale.com/industries/sports-entertainment/future-for-reverchon
    https://www.dallasnews.com/news/2019/03/15/the-best-little-ballpark-in-dallas-strikes-out-on-its-100th-birthday-after-promised-reverchon-redo-goes-nowhere/
    https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2019/09/17/mavs-donnie-nelson-clayton-kershaw-s-charity-on-deck-to-redo-dallas-historic-field-of-dreams-at-reverchon-park/

    And this one, where you appear to have a screenshot of Wilonsky’s Scribd upload for this article: https://www.scribd.com/document/426287973/The-new-plans-for-a-NEW-Reverchon-Park-ball-field

    The first RFP fell through, and that was definitely news! Do you honestly think Donnie Nelson or anyone else wasn’t paying attention? Wilonsky was even on his Ticket show “Intentional Grounding” talking about it. Perhaps Nelson was listening in? He was probably paying attention to the first RFP and saw it fail, just as Don Williams is watching the 2nd RFP. That’s what these guys do.

    The “victim” and conspiracy stance you take like this whole thing has been “behind the scenes” and you’re ‘just shocked’ would be far less comical if there wasn’t the internet with time stamped articles, not to mention city and park archives online, that have been out there documenting the whole process.

    You have an interview here with the current head of the Park Board who hasn’t even been there the whole time. Why are you not interviewing the District 2 Park rep who (above) has shown to give interviews, been supportive of the 1st RFP, and been here in the process the whole time?

      • JD says

        So this page is NOT considered “media?” Got it. I guess its exposed now as an activists’ site.

        But no, the media doesn’t decide. The city and the citizens decide and not ONE comment is given here about how this will support children at North Dallas High School and how DISD supports this project for our kids. Not one comment about those who actually utilize the ballpark , like the baseball teams and rugby teams that have already put money and time into the park that support this. Not one comment on the all-abilities field feature for disabled children. Not one comment on how revenue from the ball field will be shared with the rest of the park for upkeep of the WPA structures, tree planting, landscaping, pathways, etc. Not one comment on how this will affect economic development of the area and property values there next to a tollway and freeway ON A REAL ESTATE PAGE. This coverage has been one sided and slanted and provides no value for actual informative understanding.

        • mmCandy Evans says

          JD: I have long said this may be a great deal, great for North Dallas High School, sports, all-abilities play, etc. Said it from the get-go. What I do not like is the methodology, the secrecy and behind the cloak secrecy. Thank you for your commentary, and I think a look at what this will do to local property values is warranted.

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