The Sterlington Town Council voted this week to outsource management of the Sterlington Sports Complex by hiring a local company partly owned by a former council member.
During its regular meeting on Tuesday, the Town Council agreed to hire Two Seams LLC to operate and manage the Sports Complex. Two Seams LLC is a Sterlington company recently opened by Ben Sheets, a former professional baseball player, and Kerry Elee as 50-50 partners.
Elee served one term on the Town Council from 2015 to 2018. He also served as interim mayor in late 2018 after former Mayor Vern Breland resigned from office.
Since his term as a Town Council member ended Dec. 31, 2018, Elee has regularly helped with operations at the Sports Complex as a volunteer, or without pay.
After the vote, Town Council member Brian McCarthy defended the vote by pointing to his relationship with Elee.
“For me, this came down to the relationships we’ve built,” McCarthy said.
Elee could not be paid for his work because state law forbids any former officer of a board from receiving compensation in any transaction under that entity for a period of two years.
With the two-year period having ended less than two weeks ago, the Town Council agreed to transact Elee’s company for a three-year lease.
Under the terms of the agreement, Two Seams would pay Sterlington $50,000 a year and retain all revenues from field rentals and concessions.
“I was thrilled Ben asked me to help him run it,” Elee told The Ouachita Citizen. “And hopefully this will be a lot of fun.”
The Sports Complex generates some $215,000 a year, based on 2020 figures.
During its meeting, the Town Council entertained two offers by sports venue management companies including Elee’s Two Seams. The other company was T&R Athletics LLC, whose officers include Rodger Fulmer Jr. and Toby Trichel. Fulmer and Trichel originally discussed operating the Sports Complex in early 2016 when Breland was first promoting the development of the sports venue.
T&R Athletics LLC’s proposal differed from Two Seams in its management fee structure.
“Hypothetically, let’s say both vendors managed it for 10 years, then we would make about $410,000 with T&R but we would make about $500,000 with Two Seams,” said Town Council member Zack Howse.
Unlike Two Seams, T&R Athletics offered to remit two percent of net revenues from the Sports Complex concessions to Sterlington.
According to Howse and Mayor Caesar Velasquez, Sterlington currently receives 12 percent of gross revenues generated at the Sports Complex’s concessions through the town’s current concessions management company. After reviewing town budget documents, Howse noted Sterlington recouped $48,000 in field rentals in 2020 and more than $20,000 through concessions, meaning concessions generated a total of more than $167,000 last year.
Before the Town Council voted to award the management contract to Elee’s company, the Town Council asked each sports venue management company to offer presentations on a number of matters, such as whether locals would be allowed to use the Sports Complex for recreation or whether a mobile app could be developed to take orders at concessions.
Elee outlined a number of ways to improve service beyond the development of a mobile app for concessions orders including improvements to the grounds at the Sports Complex.
“Our goal is not just to homestead but to improve the place,” Elee said.
There also remained opportunities in the future to seek grant funding from entities like the Monroe-West Monroe Convention & Visitors Bureau to make capital improvements to the Sports Complex, according to Elee. One such capital improvement might be the construction of a shed or storage facility to protect landscaping equipment, he said.
“I don’t know that the CVB is in the mood to give us batting cages, but if we asked for something on a smaller scale, I think they might be open to it,” Elee said. “Last year, thankfully, we were able to play when very few were, and the hotels benefitted from that. I think that answered any doubt they had about our effect in the parish.”
When asked what he would do if Sterlington became unable to renew its agreement with Two Seams, Elee pointed to his three-year history of volunteer work at the complex.
“I would be willing to hang on until you guys can make other plans, maybe not for 10 years, but I would do what you needed,” Elee said.
Monroe attorney Devin Jones, who serves as Sterlington’s legal counsel, said a law firm in Baton Rouge would negotiate the contract between Sterlington and Two Seams.
“With the volume and the scale of it, it’s a pretty big operation,” Jones said.
Town Council members Howse, Brian McCarthy and Trey Vocker voted in favor of the agreement. Town Council members Matt Talbert and Ron Hill were absent.
Beyond The Ouachita Citizen, no members of the public were present at the meeting on Tuesday except for people with interest in the town or the agenda item.