By Jessica Tuggle
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY -- The county and the lessees of Vero Beach Sports Village have reached a new five-year agreement to send sports tourism in Indian River County into extra innings.
On April 9, Indian River County commissioners voted 4-1 to agree to a new contract with Verotown LLC, a group headed by Peter O'Malley, formerly of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. Verotown has been managing Vero Beach Sports Village for the past few years, and with this new agreement, will be managing the county-owned property for at least five more years.
Commissioner Bob Solari stood strong in his dissenting position, saying he believed government should provide essential services and not pick and choose certain businesses to benefit from county funds.
The new lease includes the county putting up slightly more than $2 million over the course of the next five years, including paying for insurance, capital improvements and renovations.
County administrator Joe Baird said the cost to shutter the facility with bare minimum maintenance would be approximately $4 million.
Commission Chairman Jow Flescher said he had the opportunity for a long conversation with Mr. O'Malley and was thoroughly convinced that finding a way to keep Verotown as the lessee was the best thing for taxpayers.
Previously, Verotown representatives had given Indian River County notice that the current lease would not be renewed and county staff and commissioners sought a solution, but none was satisfactory to both parties.
Talking with Mr. O'Malley and hearing his vision for Vero Beach Sports Village was the missing ingredient to the discussions, Chairman Flescher said.
"His passion for preserving and enhancing the facility, as well as amplifying the venue's historical significance and his contacts in the sports world, or the "O'Malley factor" are a combination that simply cannot be beat," Chairman Flescher said.
Keith Kite, local hotel owner and member of the Treasure Coast Sports Commission, said he fully supported the county finding a new agreement with Verotown, citing the economic benefits to the county.
"Studies have estimated that $21 million have been brought to the community as a result of sports tourism in the past four years," he said.
For more information about upcoming county government meetings, visit www.ircgov.com.
For more information about Vero Beach Sports Village, visit www.vbsportsvillage.com.