In an effort to expeditiously restore the crumbling Hinchliffe Stadium, mayor Jose “Joey” Torres wants the city council to allocate $1 million to complete the requisite architectural and engineering work to reach the point of awarding a contract to renovate the historic ball field.
However, city council president Julio Tavarez, on Wednesday evening, delayed the measure that would award $1 million in additional contract to New York City-based Wank Adams Slavin Associates (WASA), the company that was selected to partially stabilize the structure. He said the manner in which the measure appeared before the council did not adhere to the governing body’s established protocol.
Tavarez wanted the measure to go through the council’s economic development committee before reaching the governing body because the measure originated the Economic Development Department.
Business administrator Nellie Pou said the measure went through the council’s finance committee which handles anything dealing with fiscal matters. “It actually is a finance issue. It’s a bonding issue. All bonding issue is a finance issue,” said Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large, head of the council’s finance committee.
The council’s economic development committee is chaired by Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman. He was not present during Wednesday’s meeting.
Torres, who appeared moments after Tavarez decided to postpone the resolution, attempted to explain the measure, but the council president refused to give the mayor an opportunity to speak.
Torres said Tavarez is “wrong” in thinking it falls under economic development. He said the only reason that’s the case is because the Historic Preservation Commission falls under the Economic Development Department.
The mayor also said this contract is simply an amendment to an existing $338,000 contract that WASA received in 2013. The previous contract had to do with partial stabilization and partial rehabilitation of the area around the ticket booths, said city officials two years ago.
The new contract will handle field investigations for the proposed new building areas, phase-one bidding administration, construction administration, and phase-two schematic design, preparation of construction documents, and construction administration.
Torres said the previous contract did only portion of what was needed before moving ahead with full restoration. “This will allow me to amend this to do the entire design, construction, geological, engineering,” said Torres about the new contract. He decried the piece meal approach of the previous administration.
“If we do piece meal, we’ll spend that first $10 million, and the rest of the stadium will never get done. That’s my biggest fear,” said Torres.
The mayor also said the change in administration also changed the vision of what the stadium will look like after it’s restored. The previous administration touted new additions that it wanted added to the stadium like a visitor center.
Those though may be out the window. “You can’t make something new that is old that falls under the guideline of historic preservation,” said Torres.
The timing of the awarding of the $1 million contract fell on the same day the school board was set to go to bid for a market study on the stadium. “This works hand in hand with what the board of education will approve tonight,” said Torres referring to a market study the school board approved for bid on Wednesday evening.
Errol Kerr, school board member, said that resolution for the $196,000 market study was approved. Kerr said he abstained from voting because he has yet to see a plan that demonstrate the city has the needed $24 million (WASA estimate for bare restoration) or so to restore the stadium.
“You’d have to put it on the shelf afterward because you don’t have the money for it,” said Kerr.
“I cannot leverage the $15 million and the $12 million, when I need $40 million, hypothetical, if I don’t have a business plan,” said Torres. The business plan will assist in bringing private sector capital to the project, according to city officials.
There’s already have been interest on the stadium, said city officials. City officials said there has been interest in the stadium from American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The iconic 193os art-deco structure served as a venue for Negro League baseball during its heydays. It remains one of the few stadium standing where that league held games. In December 2014 the boundaries of the Great Falls National Park was expanded to include the stadium which has been deteriorating since 1997.
City official said the deterioration is not as bad as it was first supposed. Torres said he would not want to see this site go like many other historic structures in the city which have perished under the pressure of time.