Mark West Pushes for Sports Complexes as Economic Development

Mark West invited the Vanguard out to watch his daughter play softball out at Community Park and then sat down with the Vanguard in downtown Davis this week.

“One of the challenges that we have when we talk about economic development and the redevelopment of the downtown, is how do we take advantage, or how do we make changes that are beneficial,” he said.  He explained that the ongoing concern is that Amazon is preventing us from doing things that we might have wanted to do 15 or 20 years ago.

His idea is to turn Davis into some type of a tourist destination.  “Bring people into and then they will be buying,” he explained.  That would keep certain kinds of stores in business.  The problem is, “Davis isn’t really Carmel by the Sea.”  It doesn’t have the natural draw for tourism that other communities might have.  “It’s kind of hard to imagine it’s going to be a place where people come just because it’s Davis,” he added.  “How do we take advantage of (Davis) as a tourist destination?  But do it in a way that takes advantage of what Davis is.”

What Mark West came up with came out of the recent hotel discussion.  The city could take advantage of the university having events on campus by having more hotels in town that can capture the visitors who come to the campus and then capture the tax revenue through the TOT (Transient Occupancy Tax).

“That’s one obvious approach,” he explained.

But he warned, “you don’t want to have all your eggs in one basket.  You want another way to bring people to town.

“The way I see that,” he explained, “is our incredible youth sports programs we have in town.”  Baseball.  Soccer.  Softball.  Gymnastics.  Even water polo.

“IF we could take advantage of those activities to bring people into town, you would have another source of those tourists,” he said.  “The challenge that we have is our facilities are not very good.  We haven’t been keeping them up.”

Mr. West pointed out that for years, “we have been talking about needing a sports park.”  He added, “We need a 50 meter swimming pool.  Those are all things that everyone looks upon as being nice to have.”

However, he suggested that we think about it differently.   Instead of being nice to haves, we should think about it as being a source that brings people into town, to stay at our hotels, and buy
goods and services from our businesses.

“They could become a destination for people to come to,” he said.  “Then they become an investment in our future, not just for our kids, but also for our source of revenue.  That’s why I’m advocating that we should be looking at ways we can increase our infrastructure for youth sports.

“I’m in favor of the sports park,” he said.  “Those allow us to have events, big tournaments, meets, whatever it happens to be which brings people into town.  We know with the legacy soccer, with their events every year, those are stay and play events where teams coming from a greater distance have to stay in one of the local hotels.”

He said, “If we had more hotels in town, we could do more events like that.  Where the whole team comes in and the families come in and stay for two or three days, shop in our downtown district, go out to dinner, and leave.  That’s what I’m advocating for.”

He said, “I’m taking the culture we have in youth sports and using it as a destination tool, or tool to bring people into Davis to enjoy Davis as we know it.”

The big question is how we get the money in order to build these facilities.

Mark West acknowledged, “That’s a big challenge, but it’s easier to come up with the money if you see it as an investment that’s going to pay off in a short period of time, rather than just an expense.  It’s a mindset.  I think we just have to think of it as an investment rather than an expense and it will allow us to think of ways to get the funding the funding.”

He said, “Obviously I’ve been advocating for economic development as a way to get the funding for a lot of things, and I still believe that’s our approach  but a lot is just a mindset, are we keeping what we have or are we going to try to expand our opportunities.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Alan Pryor

    it’s easier to come up with the money if you see it as an investment that’s going to pay off in a short period of time, rather than just an expense

    I don’t think citizens want to “see it as an investment”. I, and I think other residents, want proponents to quantitatively demonstrate with solid investment analysis that there is a reasonable chance that the City sees a return on an expensive sports facility investment if there are any municipal funds involved. If it’s truly a short term “investment”, then Mr. West should be able to provide a proforma cash flow and P&L statement showing the ROI to the City without putting their thumb on the scale and fudging numbers. Once I started seeing the numbers floating around for the cost of the various iterations of the proposed sports facility and it became obvious it was not going to fly without municipal support, I suspected that the sports community would soon start touting this as a municipal “investment”. And it very well may be. But the numbers have to be crunched in an objective (and conservative) manner and be presented to the public without any puffery and trickery.

    1. David Greenwald

      Reasonable point Alan. I do know the last three weekends, my daughter has gone to soccer tournaments in the Bay Area. It means that we and her teammates and their families have spent one or two nights in a hotel, purchased food, eaten at restaurants etc. Multiply that by however many teams and expand that by multiple tournaments and you are probably adding real revenue. It should be calculable as you suggest however.

    2. Mark West

      “I don’t think citizens want to “see it as an investment”.”

      I agree that those who remain wedded to artificial scarcity and a protectionist mindset will be unable to appreciate the value of the opportunity mindset that I am proposing. Our approach should be working to figure out how to create benefits for the community, not trotting out the tired arguments for why something ‘won’t work.’

      “Mr. West should be able to provide a proforma cash flow and P&L statement showing the ROI to the City”

      I don’t need to prove that economic development works and nothing I say will change the mindset of those activists deadset against development and change. What I am advocating is to broaden our view when we consider the cost/benefit analysis of a community resource such as a sports park, because it’s added value comes from the new economic opportunities it helps generate, and not simply providing a place to play games.

      It is important to understand though, that neither sports park or a 50-meter pool for that matter, will ‘pay for themselves’ as neither will directly generate significant revenues for the City. What resources like these do is help increase local economic activity by bringing new consumers into town to support our local businesses. So the City’s ROI will not be determined by the parks per se, but by the other businesses that we have in place. We will not see an increase in revenues (TOT) from hotel stays for instance unless we have sufficient hotel capacity to capture those new visitors. It doesn’t help us if those visitors are staying in Woodland, Dixon or West Sacramento as they do now, due to our lack of hotel space.

      We won’t have that additional capacity however if we continue with our protectionist mindset, adding new ad hoc requirements that drive up the cost of development and spending years arguing over the suitability of every little project (and let’s not forget the lawsuits). Economic development is a means of increasing economic opportunity for all residents, and investing in our youth sports infrastructure is a form of economic development.

  2. Alan Miller

    I agree that we aren’t Carmel by the Sea, and if we are going to attract tourists we need something besides a green canal for Venetian gondolas.

    However, I can’t support a sports complex.  Professional sports complexes are often paid for with a large chunk of taxpayer dollars and sometimes do and sometimes don’t pay off in economic benefits.  I would infer that a large chunk of this sports complex would be paid for by taxpayers as well, with a “promise” of an offset with economic benefits over time.  Not sure that would actually pencil out.

    My other objection is the proposed locations put forth by Wolk were far enough outside town as to discourage youth riding their bikes to sports games (similar to those driving to yoga or the gym).  In town dispersed sports fields allow for youth to use their bikes rather than be shuttled by soccer parents in vans.  Of course, one of our major soccer fields is already in that category, at the site of the old porno drive-in, half-way to West Sacramento.

  3. Todd Edelman

    Last year some kind of regional – or bigger – soccer meet at Nugget Fields had hundreds of cars parked… and just a few bikes, even though there was local participation.

    When parking is free (or nearly so) everyone drives. Events at Community Park do have lots arriving by bike, but e.g. H St. is also jam packed most of the way to 8th. The 4th St. parking structure is never fully utilized; somehow residents of the most-educated town in the area cannot find it. UC Davis and middle schools have the lowest by-car shares for obvious reasons.  Having cycling infrastructure of some sort is not enough; UC Davis and middle school transport work better than most because parking is expensive or no one can drive themselves.

    How much money could be make at Picnic Day if we charged for parking?

    OK, back to the regional etc. event: I would propose that hotels have bundled discounts with Capitol Corridor, but if all the hotels have free parking based on expected number of cars there is no point to this.

    Downtown parking policies are finally moving in a progressive direction, but – for lack of a better term – most of the rest of the city – think recently re-paved lots fed by pothole’d streets – still has a Jeff-Reisig-as-Progressive housing policy for cars: Complete and total b.s.

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