A consulting group has begun crafting a parks master plan after it met with town staff and representatives of a college preparatory school that could help build the sport facilities.
The Town of Payson and Varxity Development Corporation have each agreed to pay Community Center Partners, LLC $125,000 to help explore various economic and recreational opportunities.
The town began meeting with Community Center Partners (CCP), including Ron Chambless, chief operating officer and director of operations, in June to discuss revitalizing Rumsey Park, including replacement of Taylor Pool and possibly bringing a prep school to the area.
The consultants will develop a plan for the park and the school over the next six months.
Varxity has put “skin in the game” by agreeing to pay half of CCP’s consulting cost. So far, however, neither side has paid CCP, which will bill the town and Varxity on a monthly basis.
Lane Moore, the principal of a rural Canadian school, heads up Varxity. He dreams of putting a 600-student prep school on undeveloped land behind Walmart. Moore’s group has submitted a letter of intent to purchase that parcel.
Students would pay for tuition and a room on campus.
“The attraction will be the quality of education and the sport-specific focused strategic coaching. There is no desire to compete with the local schools for student population,” CCP said.
Moore wants to offer a quality education where students can also train to become “elite” athletes who can win scholarships to Division I colleges.
With cooperation from the town, Moore would put an ice rink facility in Rumsey along with a pool and community center for both students and residents.
“As these new and upgraded facilities are studied, the revitalization of Rumsey Park in its entirety will concurrently be planned,” CCP says.
The bold plan has drawn interest from residents, several of which spoke out at a recent council meeting. They urged the council to be cautious and transparent. Several Roundup readers wrote to say they were concerned since this would be Varxity’s first prep school. Others noted that consultant Lee Ploszaj also worked on the four-year university campus and an ammunition manufacturer at the industrial park. Neither of those projects has so far worked out.
CCP said Ploszaj has more than 30 years experience in planning, development and real estate projects.
Ploszaj, then with dck Capital Solutions, worked with the Rim Country Educational Alliance to buy land for a university and draw up final plans for both buildings and infrastructure.
Ploszaj said dck completed its work on the university project with engineering, financing and development plans. Ploszaj said the project is defunct until the Rim Country Educational Alliance finds a university partner.
“The truth of the matter is that ASU was depending on representations from former town leadership indicating a depth of sponsorships by local residents in the tens of millions of dollars,” CCP wrote. “When former town leadership and the RCEA were pressed to deliver, those sponsorships never materialized and without them ASU was not interested in moving forward. It should be said that ASU was not the only organization that was misled by representations of the existence of wealthy local monetary sponsors willing to donate to the university project.”
Ploszaj maintains neither the town nor the RCEA ever paid him or his organization for their service on the project.
The ASU project that first drew Ploszaj to Payson, since he had worked with ASU on other building projects. When he heard ASU was interested in building a satellite campus, he started visiting Rim Country.
Ploszaj said dck tried to dissuade the Alliance from buying the Forest Service site given the problematic topography. However, town leadership and the RCEA insisted and bought the land. RSP architects then developed several site plans, but those have been shelved until a university partner signs on.
“This can be in no way attributed to the efforts of Mr. Ploszaj or the organizations he works with,” CCP wrote.
Ploszaj also worked with Jim Antich with Advanced Armament Tactical Concepts (ATAC) which manufactured HPR ammunition at the Payson industrial park. Antich ATAC named Ploszaj president and CEO of a project to build a 300,000-square-foot global headquarters for Advanced Munitions International LLC in Tennessee after Ploszaj and his team negotiated a development agreement and incentives with the State of Tennessee worth roughly $48 million.
After Antich ran into financial difficulties unrelated to the Tennessee plan and lost that business, Fred Wagenhals bought ATAC and renamed it AMMO Inc. Ploszaj said he is no longer involved and Wagenhals is not interested in expanding to Tennessee so the development agreement will expire at the end of October.
Ploszaj has worked with Wagenhals. According to online records, Ploszaj was president of the Winners Creative Group, a business related to the sponsorship of NASCAR driving teams and drivers. In 2012, Wagenhals and Ploszaj, member-managers of the Winners Creative Group, LLC, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the State of Arizona. A bankruptcy judge dismissed the case in December 2013 after finding “no objections having been filed, after hearing, and good cause appearing.”
While Ploszaj worked with then Mayor Kenny Evans on the ASU project, he is now working with Mayor Craig Swartwood on the college prep school. Town Manager LaRon Garrett and Economic Development Specialist Bobby Davis said while they know of Ploszaj, they have not worked with him directly before.
Ploszaj held a kick-off meeting Oct. 20 in Payson with members of the town, the consulting group and Varxity.
Ploszaj said RSP architects would be the parks master plan and community center architect. RSP also worked on the university project.
RSP will walk through the park with staff and do an assessment of what is there and what the town and Varxity would like to see built and where.
Ploszaj said they have several objectives.
First, Varxity will create a parks master plan for the town, with or without the school.
The consultants will also study the viability of Varxity partnering with the town to build new facilities.
The town would not pay for any of the new sporting facilities with Moore’s group of investors fronting the costs. The town has agreed, at least initially, to offer incentives, like waiving fees if Moore decides to build.
“Lane is interested in partnering with the city as an educator to bring higher education in the form of an elite college prep academy,” Ploszaj said. “He wants to make sure there is support from the community. Lane and his investors also want to get a sense that the assets that make up park could be available.”
Ploszaj said the public-private partnership will not burden taxpayers.
If the consulting work goes well, Ploszaj said they would move to a development agreement possibly in six months.
“No one is building anything at Rumsey yet,” he said. “We are just doing a study.”
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