The Port Arthur News
The Jefferson County Commissioners’ Court voted in a 3-1 decision to issue a request for development proposals (RFP) for a Ford Park convention hotel and water park at a meeting on Monday.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Everette “Bo” Alfred opposed the motion, saying that it wasn’t in a packet he had received regarding the project.
The proposals — which must include a transmittal letter, executive summary, a table of contents, offeror identifying information, offeror personnel and organization, project requirements and cost proposals — are due no later than 11 a.m. on Nov. 19. The potential vendors will be evaluated and scored on a scale of 100 by an evaluation committee, with the bid awarded tentatively on Dec. 16. The water park and hotel do not have to be undertaken by the same company, County Judge Jeff Branick said.
Although the county has a basic blueprint in mind, most of the specifics will come from the proposals, purchasing agent Deborah Clark said.
“We’re relying on someone else’s expertise,” she said.
And while Branick could not divulge information about the artistic renderings of the project he has glimpsed in executive session, he did say he would like to see the hotel built immediately adjacent to the convention hall, in order to attract more convention business. He hopes to see the water park — an attraction Southeast Texans currently have to travel to Baytown to enjoy — built adjacent to the baseball fields.
“My vision is something that capitalizes on our culture and our heritage,” Branick said.
As for financial concerns surrounding Ford Park, Branick said the revenue will help to alleviate those.
“Ford Park is a public entertainment facility, and every public entertainment facility in the United States operates in the red,” he said. “I don’t think Minute Maid Park and Reliance Stadium pay their own bills, but the revenue generated far exceeds expenses.”
Branick added that no general tax revenue currently submitted to the county will be used in the funding of this project. The origin of the funding is contingent on the proposals, he said, but an alternative is the creation of a tax increment reinvestment zone — which would mean the assessed values of properties within that zone would be frozen for an indefinite amount of time.
“We would create improvement on an unimproved property, and for a period of time, agree not to collect taxes,” Branick said.
Although no definite timetable has been provided, Branick said he would like to see the project break ground by March or April of 2014.
“It will bring additional revenue in the form of sales tax, and it would be a plus for Ford Park,” he said. “But we have to have a community that supports these events, and we have to have promoters.”