Project Phoenix Exposed: Complex Shenanigans 

Read the report Lenawee County Commissioners don’t want you to see.

Wondering why you haven’t seen the report for that new fancy sports complex that’ll add a nice shine to our good ol’ county? There are good reasons. 

A final draft of Crossroads Consulting’s report has been making the rounds, and I got my hands on it, and it shows that the proposed facility is far from the slam-dunk that the county is advertising. It was published on September 1. 

It’s not the final report—that will be formally presented to the commissioners tonight, October 20, minutes before they decide whether to move forward with the project. It’ll be stunning to see commissioners speed-read through 128 pages—someone should call Guinness World Records just in case—but the report’s depth won’t be an issue. 

According to recent media reports, the document is still in its draft form as of earlier this month, though the commissioners have all the information they need to move forward. 

That’s all well and good, but do county residents have all the information they need? Why isn’t that information public? 

See the problem? 

There’s no harm in letting us read it, debate it, and decide it. Unless, of course, less-than-desirable details are hiding in there. 

Did you know that it could take up to three years after the facility is built for it to reach its full economic potential? Who pays those operating costs until then? 

Did you know that the county plans to hire a management company to operate the county-owned facility? 

Did you know that the more the community uses the complex, the harder it will be to attract tournaments and out-of-town attendees? p. 85 

Did you know that the report “should not be used or relied upon for any other purposes including financing of the project.” p. 95

Did you know that the facility is only profitable in the report due to a completely made-up number by the county? 

The $415,000 Question

Lenawee County has been adamant that the new facility won’t require new taxes, but the draft analysis indicates that the completed facility—with both indoor and outdoor spaces—will operate at a deficit once it’s reached its maximum financial capability. 

The county shores up those perilous financials with a convenient $415,000 in yearly commercial leases, but how the county determined this number is anyone’s guess. It didn’t originate with Crossroads Consulting, which noted in its study that the county provided that number. 

Did the county use another consulting service? If so, where’s that report? What was its methodology? 

Did the county prepare its own report on the matter? Where is it? Show us.

Did the county make it up?

County commissioners seem aloof. An email sent to eight of the nine (one returned as undeliverable) asking about the number’s origin went unanswered Tuesday, just hours before the crucial vote.  

Without that miraculous $415,000 in commercial leases, the completed facility—and that’s key as the report recommends the county build the facility in phases, starting with the indoor space—will operate at a $281,000 loss. 

Who is paying for that? 

What makes that number more shocking is that this is what the facility will operate at in a “Stabilized Year,” which won’t be instantaneous. The report notes, “The length of time for new venues to reach stabilized operations varies but typically occurs in or around year three.” p. 98

Are you willing to wait six years for a fully operational—and unprofitable—facility? 

You can do the math yourself with the charts below.

p. 100
p. 102

The county has been tossing around big numbers and big plans, but they might come with big caveats, caveats the county doesn’t appear eager to advertise. The selective talking points have painted a pretty picture of what’s possible, but that has also made it far too easy to hide the challenges noted in the report. 

On the other hand, the county’s math might check out, and the facility could be the predicted financial windfall for the community. It’s also unclear how much the report will change, if at all, which we won’t know until tonight when the commission accepts it. 

But suppose that information is available, as the commissioners have “received much of the information it needs to make a decision on moving forward,” according to the The Daily Telegram. In that case, there should be no protest in letting the public see it all before the commissioners move forward with the project, who are possibly purchasing the former Tecumseh Products property tonight. 

This draft report, linked above as a PDF for download, is the only peek the public has behind the curtain, but County Commissioners are quite free to share whatever information they have, and clear up any confusion about the project. If draft reports are good for commissioners, it’s good for the public.

Over the years, there have been numerous proposals presented to transform the former Tecumseh Products property. None of them have panned out. There’s little doubt the property could turn into an economic driver for the area, but a sports complex that helps rake in millions sounds a bit too good to be true. 

Oh, and one last thing. This is a feasibility study to determine how a sports complex would do at the Products location. It is not a study to determine what’s the best use of that property. 

Maybe the county should start there before going on a spending spree. 

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