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Down – But not out? GoodSports, out in Wichita, says Charlotte still on its plate

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GoodSports Enterprises, whose company officials said they would be focusing on a Wichita, Kansas, project when they asked for a year’s delay in its plans to build an amateur sports complex near Bojangles’ Coliseum, illustrated above, apparently is out of the running in Wichita.

GoodSports Enterprises, which recently suspended plans with the city to construct an amateur sports complex near Bojangles’ Coliseum, is taking off the gloves after the city of Wichita opted to move on without the company in a similar project.

Florida-based GoodSports told Charlotte officials in a February fax that it was delaying plans for an athletic field house and hotel on East Independence Boulevard so it could focus on the Kansas development.

But the city of Wichita and the project’s master developer appear fed up. After granting GoodSports a couple of extensions on its Jan. 1 deadline to break ground, the city “is moving forward with the development agreement without GoodSports,” said Ken Evans, director of communications for the city of Wichita. GoodSports was supposed to have finalized financing, architecture plans and building permits by the end of 2014.

Reached by phone in Sarasota, GoodSports Vice President of Development Anthony Homer said the company will go to the mat over being sidelined. He said GoodSports was just days away from pulling permits.

“To come to the 5-yard line and have the rug pulled out from under is just confusing,” Homer said. “There’s no alternative to legal action. If they’re going to shut us out, we don’t have any other remedy.”

Homer said GoodSports needed the two extensions because a lack of funding forced the company to scale back and redesign the field house. He said GoodSports had provided Wichita with due diligence, including proof of more than $1.25 million for its share of the $6.75 million field house.

If the Kansas deal had gone through, GoodSports would have been eligible for $5.5 million in proceeds from sales and tax revenue bonds for construction costs.

In addition, Homer said, GoodSports offered the city and master developer Wichita Destination Developers the option of selecting an escrow agent. Homer said Thursday he had not received a response to several messages left with Wichita officials. The Mecklenburg Times went to press on Monday.

Evans declined to comment on Homer’s side of the issue, citing potential legal action. However, he said newspaper reports from The Wichita Eagle were accurate: One story quoted a Wichita Destination Developers attorney’s contention that GoodSports had not provided proof of adequate equity in the project. The attorney, Korb Maxwell, could not be reached for comment.

Jerald Good, chief executive of GoodSports, said Friday that he wouldn’t discuss the root cause of the disagreement, saying “We’ll let it play out with the attorneys.” Good then added that the company had provided Wichita with “everything that was called for,” and that it “came down to a proof of funds.”

“We proved it up but it wasn’t in a manner that the city wanted,” he said.

In the past, GoodSports has been the one to scuttle the public-private partnerships it has formed in its stated quest to build 25 sports complexes over the next four years. In November, the company suspended indefinitely sports-development projects in suburban Indianapolis and Dayton, Ohio. It cited a lack of funding.

The following month, Good told the Charlotte City Council’s Economic Development and Global Competitiveness Committee that the Queen City was “our No. 1 priority,” as its Kansas project had already obtained financing and permits. A couple of months later, GoodSports pulled out of the $76.7 million Charlotte venture after saying in January it had found debt and equity investors to back its $39.7 million share of the deal. GoodSports declined to publicly identify them, as have Charlotte officials.

By that time, Charlotte had already spent $3.6 million of the $25 million set aside from the 2013 capital-investment plan to buy a 6.8-acre site adjacent to Ovens. A combination of surface and structured parking was planned for the area.

The city is now preparing the site to construct a surface lot, said Todd DeLong, commercial redevelopment manager for the city of Charlotte. The city’s decision to purchase the crime-ridden site was “part of an overall strategy for (the) Ovens-Bojangles’ area,” DeLong said, and didn’t subsequently hinge on the proposed GoodSports deal.

“There is existing demand for additional parking for events at Ovens Auditorium and Bojangles’ Coliseum,” he said in an e-mail. “The demand for parking will be even greater when the Checkers begin playing their home games at the coliseum.”

The Checkers hockey team is scheduled to return to its original home in October from Time Warner Cable Arena.

Charlotte began negotiations with GoodSports in 2013, after the city sent a request for proposals to four companies, asking them for plans to redevelop the coliseum site. GoodSports was the only company to respond, the city said.

Since then, Good has suffered from financial problems. Early this year, Regions Bank filed a notice of lien with the Sarasota Clerk of the Circuit Court, beginning the process of foreclosing on Good’s waterfront villa in the Bird Key subdivision. According to public documents, Good and his wife, Patricia, took out more than $4.5 million in mortgage loans with the bank in early 2007. Several months later they bought the 5,965-square-foot house for $5.75 million from real estate investor Marvin Kaplan, who owned the property for exactly two months after paying $6.45 million for it. The Herald Tribune reported last month that Kaplan also agreed to buy the Goods’ house in Bradenton for $950,000, which was $150,000 more than the couple had listed it for two months earlier.

Asked why Kaplan would sell at a $70,000 loss, Good said it was important to remember what economic conditions were like in 2007. “He was a developer who got caught up in the recession,” Good explained. “The home had sat vacant for a year. We put a lot more into it.”

That includes a new boat lift, according to a notice filed in late 2007 with the Sarasota court clerk’s office.

As for Kaplan’s paying $150,000 more than the asking price for the Bradenton home, Good said it was part of the deal.

“I negotiated that price for the existing home for a trade in,” Good explained on Friday. “My home was probably worth that. People don’t realize the effect the recession had on developers.”

Good said that although his home is now underwater, it doesn’t affect GoodSports’ operations in any way.

Meanwhile, Charlotte trudges on with plans for revitalizing Independence Boulevard, just west of Briar Creek Road. The site still provides an opportunity for amateur sports, DeLong said in an email.

“There are multiple approaches we can take to move forward with this redevelopment opportunity, but we want to make sure we carefully consider each one to determine which approach is best for this site and the surrounding community,” he wrote.  Projects such as these are complicated and take time to implement, he added.

And GoodSports wants to keep the ball rolling. “We’re very excited about Charlotte,” Homer said.

“We felt the community needed more time to decide what they wanted,” he added, describing GoodSports as “ready to re-enter talks” with the city.

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