City, REV Entertainment moving forward on massive Fair Grounds complex concept

STEPS FORWARD:  Conceptual drawings for a new ballpark, entertainment district and hotel suggested by REV Entertainment of Arlington, Texas were unveiled in March, with recent signs indicating forward movement on the proposal. (Artwork courtesy of REV Entertainment)

By TONY TAGLAVORE, Journal Sports

A 4,000-seat baseball stadium on Shreveport’s State Fair Grounds — the cornerstone of a now-estimated $105 million Phase 1/Part I project next to Independence Stadium along Interstate 20 — is one step closer to reality.

Four consulting firms met a 3 p.m. Tuesday deadline, in response to the City of Shreveport’s Request for Proposal. The selected firm will review research, plans and financials, submitted by REV Entertainment, an Arlington, Texas-based events company that began discussions last fall with city officials in former Mayor Adrian Perkins’ administration. Newly-elected Mayor Tom Arceneaux has continued assessment of the concept, and it seems to be gaining some traction.

REV has proposed a three-phased entertainment center featuring a stadium to be the home of a (likely independent) minor-league baseball team, and a mixed-use development, including restaurants.

The RFP said this part of Phase I “would be funded by the City, along or in concert with other partners who may be identified.”

A second part of Phase I would include an approximately 300-room hotel. That, according to the RFP, would be privately funded. “REV has committed to seek partners to fund or privately fund” the hotel development, according to the RFP.

The four companies expressing interest in providing their consulting services are Fast Forward Consulting, Baker-Tilly, Samuel A. Ramirez and Company, and Brailsford and Dunlavey.

According to its website, Fast Forward Consulting is based in Haughton and owned by Adrienne Adams, who has a degree in business management from LSU and is pursuing a master’s in human resources.

REV Entertainment President Sean Decker said his company recommended Baker-Tilly. According to Baker-Tilly’s website, the company is “a top 10 advisory tax and assurance firm dedicated to customized business solutions that generate and sustain growth.” Baker-Tilly has locations in 20 states.

On its LinkedIn page, Samuel A. Ramirez and Company is described as a nationwide (New York-based), full-service investment bank, brokerage and advisory firm.

Brailsford and Dunlavey’s website says the company’s “purpose is to inspire and empower organizations to maximize the value of investments that advance them toward the targeted new reality.” It has seven locations in three states and the District of Columbia.

“We recommended the City (hire a consulting firm),” Decker said. “It’s always preferred in our method for the community and the city, town — wherever we work — for them to do their own feasibility study. Don’t just take our word for it. Make sure an independent party backs up that the market can support this, and all the research we’ve done is right. We think it’s absolutely a critical part of the due diligence.”

In late March, Arceneaux said the city “was hiring Baker-Tilley to help us evaluate and look over REV’s numbers to make sure we’re comfortable with their numbers, and then also to see how we would go about using financing other than general obligation bonds to come up with our initial investment.” However, the mayor later learned that before hiring Baker-Tilly, a Request for Proposal had to be issued, allowing other companies to bid on providing consulting services.

The completed RFP’s will now go to an evaluation committee. Tom Dark, Shreveport’s Chief Administrative Officer, told the Journal that the committee will likely consist of Dark, Shreveport Parks and Public Assembly Director Shelly Ragle, Chief Financial Officer Sherricka Fields Jones, and “probably someone from the City Attorney’s office.” Dark said he is still working to learn if the company chosen must be approved by the city council.

The RFP gave specifics regarding the stadium. The RFP said Phase 1 of the project includes a 4,000-seat stadium, with a capacity of 6,000 for “other events.” The project also calls for “reconstruction and amenities for the main interior roadway (Pershing Drive), the relocation or removal of a cell tower on the premises, a mixed-use building adjacent to the outfield that is intended to be a year-round venue, parking areas for players and deliveries, an open plaza wrapping around the site to make it a community space, and reconstruction of and reconfiguration of the existing parking area.”

The RFP also said Phase I will be “funded by the City, alone or in concert with other partners…”.

Decker said the RFP process “definitely slowed things down a little bit.” However, that doesn’t mean work hasn’t been done.

“Frankly, a lot of the less-sexy stuff, if you will,” Decker said. “A lot of looking at the underground — water, electrical, plumbing. We’re admittedly coming up to the point where we will be in a holding pattern until the feasibility study is complete, and we press ‘go.’ We’re trying to do everything we can to ensure that if the process and the project is approved to proceed, we’re ready to go right away.”

If the project does not move forward, there is a possibility REV Entertainment would explore bringing its plan to Bossier City. Bossier spokesperson Louis Johnson confirmed to the Journal that at one point, there was a meeting between REV and Bossier officials, where the possibility was discussed. However, there wasn’t a second meeting.

However, Decker made it clear to the Journal that Shreveport was —and remains — REV’s first choice for the development.

“More of the conversations with Bossier were about this team becoming a community asset — a regional asset — that will serve obviously more than just Shreveport, and we want to be great neighbors and partners in all of that. Any conversation with Bossier that would have talked about this team ever coming to Bossier, would have been more along the lines of, ‘Hey, if things don’t work out in Shreveport, we may be willing to have a conversation or to look at it.’”

Added Decker: “By the way, we were transparent with the City of Shreveport in that process, and looked at all options.”

Shreveport councilwoman Ursula Bowman, who represents the district where the development would be built, did not immediately return the Journal’s voicemail and email seeking comment.

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