Racketeering over interim management of council’s Costa Mesa Tennis Center net concessions

Racketeering over interim management of council's Costa Mesa Tennis Center net concessions

An attempt to find an interim operator for the Costa Mesa Tennis Center – facing a vacancy after its beloved manager retired after 24 years – drew harsh reactions from some who blamed the city ​​to neglect local options.

City Council Tuesday approved a temporary agreement with Top Seed Tennis Academy, which operates facilities in Calabasas and Valencia, to operate the center while city staff prepare a request for proposals for a permanent operator.

The move comes after longtime chef Hank Lloyd and his wife Maureen announced plans late last year to pull out of the centre, a 12-court facility near the city’s TeWinkle Park that is offering 10% gross revenue from court use and 5% from pro-shop sales and concessions, according to a series of rental agreements that date back to 1998.

Hank Lloyd and his wife Maureen, seen in January, retired Monday from operating the Costa Mesa Tennis Center after 24 years, leaving a leadership vacuum that the city moved to fill on Tuesday.

(Don Leach / personal photographer)

Parks and Community Services Director Jason Minter said Tuesday the city originally planned to run the center with department staff until a new operator could be located through proposal announcements.

But when clients at the center learned that staff could not maintain full hours of operation, they complained to city officials, who considered their alternatives and were told by some at the Top Seed center and its president, Steve McAvoy.

“We found that Top Seed Tennis Academy would provide enough financial support and experience to be able to come forward and do it at very short notice,” Minter said.

The Costa Mesa Tennis Center is operating under a lease that will soon be renewed by the city through a request for proposals process.

The Costa Mesa Tennis Center is operating under a lease that will soon be renewed by the city through a request for proposals process.

(Don Leach / personal photographer)

A temporary agreement has been drafted for a period of four months, with the possibility of extending the lease twice for two-month terms and the same revenue sharing.

News of the tentative deal reached other operators, including local businesses who had expressed interest in bidding through the RFP process, who expressed disappointment on Tuesday with what they said was a process. unfair.

“Our organization and others have not had the same opportunity [as Top Seed]said Amy Pazahanick, owner of the Agape Tennis Academy, which operates tennis centers in Fountain Valley and Oxnard. “Voting for another private organization to run the tennis center in the interim clearly gives that organization an unfair advantage in the bidding process.”

Eduardo Reyes, a longtime Costa Mesa Tennis Center instructor, said he was ready to take over as temporary manager of the facility and was surprised to learn the city was making arrangements with Top Seed.

A tennis player outside the Costa Mesa Tennis Center Wednesday March 2, 2022.

A tennis player outside the Costa Mesa Tennis Center on Wednesday. The city is holding two public meetings on March 10 and 16 to seek input on a new operator lease agreement.

(Don Leach / personal photographer)

“(Now) I think Steve is the best option for us to continue to grow,” Reyes told the board. “I’m behind if the community is behind.”

McAvoy explained that he had recently been contacted to replace him. He said it wouldn’t be a bargain, anticipating that Top Seed would likely break even, at best. Still, he said his company would bid for the permanent lease when it becomes available.

Council members agreed that the city, acting hastily to find an option that would allow the center to remain open during the same hours, may not have acted transparently. Officials have promised to involve community members more in the bidding process.

The Parks Department will host two community forums at the center, located at 880 Junipero Drive, on March 12 at 10 a.m. and March 16 at 5:30 p.m. to gather feedback on new visions for the facility and its interface with park land.

Officials also agreed to bring the request for proposals document back to the council before submitting it to the bidding public, hinting that this could happen in early April.

“We want to hear from you,” Mayor John Stephens said. “Keep our feet on the fire, and eventually we’ll put out a good tender and choose the best and most qualified person to lead this tennis center into the future.”

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