Following an approval by the Dallas City Council in January, the city of Dallas is offering a 40-year lease covering part of Reverchon Park to Donnie Nelson's Reverchon Park Sports and Entertainment LLC.
Part of the city's case for doing that is the ballpark's poor condition and the lack of money to fix it.
Let's look at that.
But before we hit the money, let's review one point. A lawsuit filed against the city relies in large part on Chapter 26 of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Code. Section 26.001(a) says the city council has to determine whether "there is no feasible and prudent alternative" to a proposal.
Certainly, part of making a determination of a "feasible alternative" (that doesn't rely on leasing public lands to a for-profit private entity) is whether there's enough cash to make said alternative happen (keeping the park public land with an operational baseball field).
The money's right there
The city's poormouth cries in regards to Reverchon – and any number of other facilities – appear to be of the crocodile variety.
Back in the 2006 bond package, Reverchon Park got a chunk of change. Where was it spent? It seems a shit-ton of it – 13 years later – remains unspent.
As of the 2018-2019 Capital Improvement Budget, Reverchon Park was sitting on $648,314 in bond money of which a pittance ($2,363 to be precise) had been spent. In the current 2019-2020 budget, Reverchon had spent a bit, but still sat on $527,061 of which zero is committed through at least 2021-2022.
Could $527,061 (let alone $648,314) have been used to refurbish the bleachers, bathrooms and any number of other repairs to make the ballfield useful again? I’m going to say "yes."
Why am I saying yes? Because in 2003, Dallas Parks and Recreation entered into an agreement with DISD to overhaul Randall Park near Woodrow Wilson High School. That overhaul netted soccer, softball and baseball fields plus a 1,600-square-foot concession stand, restrooms, and associated parking.
Even after adding an irrigation system, sidewalks, shade structure, and some additional work in 2006, the total bill was $1,256,178.11 – proving Park Board can effectively spend bond money.
Of course, it's 13-16 years later, but I'm pretty dang sure one baseball field refurbishment can be had for the funds currently available – and positively positive that using the 2006 bond monies closer to 2006 would have been a budgetary cakewalk.
"Friends" of Reverchon
Need more money? A little cushion? How about $187,250, which was transferred out of the coffers of the Friends of Reverchon Park in 2015 and 2016 (according to IRS 990 filings)? Those monies were given to the Trinity Nature Conservancy. According to IRS 990 filings, Trinity Nature Conservancy's total 2015 revenues of $97,250 came from Friends of Reverchon, and $90,000 of their $110,000 in revenues for 2016 came from Friends of Reverchon.
According to the group Defend Reverchon, Trinity Nature Conservancy shares directors and officers with Friends of Reverchon Park. But if the letterhead says Friends of Reverchon Park, shouldn’t their monies have been spent in Reverchon, not the Trinity?
If these two pots had been administered correctly, Reverchon Park would have had a kitty of $835,564 to repair the ballfield as recently as 2018.
Why wasn't it spent on Reverchon? Because you don't renovate the house you're tearing down.
With Friends of Reverchon Park, who needs enemies
Let's step back and look at how Reverchon got sold out in the first place. We know about two shady "community" meetings held by the Parks Board in 2017 and the subsequent RFPs that were issued in 2018 and 2019.
Those community meetings were titled, "Reverchon Park Proposed Renovations." But months earlier, a December 1, 2016 Park Board briefing was titled "Reverchon Park Ballfield – Proposed Redevelopment." [emphasis mine]
In those few months, someone downgraded "redevelopment" to "renovations" which would have been more easily ignored or overlooked by the neighborhood. But why was that Parks Board briefing instigated in the first place?
That briefing states the following:
"Friends of Reverchon Park have proposed the redevelopment of the existing field by means of a long term agreement with a self-funded private entity. The appropriate initiation of this re-development of the Ball Field should be issuance by Dallas Park and Recreation of a Request For Proposals which defines the desired goals and results in the identification of potential partners."
The briefing outlined a redeveloped ballfield containing 1,400 permanent seats and an additional 600-1,000 temporary bleacher seats. Those are the numbers that appear in the 2018 RFP, but it morphed to 3,500 combined seats by 2019, and now seems to stand at a craftily-done 5,000.
How do you make room for 5,000 seats? By ditching the grass and replacing the whole area with plasti-grass — under the guise of supporting rugby, lacrosse, and soccer. This creates a larger, sturdier area for concert and event lawn seating.
Those entrusted to safeguard Reverchon have me reinterpreting Mark Antony's speech in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar: "I come to bury Reverchon Park, not to maintain it."
A version of this story appeared on Candy's Dirt.