Every year, Preservation Dallas, an organization focused on preserving and revitalizing historic spaces in the city, publishes a list of local, endangered areas. The historical, nearly a century-old Reverchon Ball Park made it on the list this year because a planned entertainment venue and baseball field threatened to replace it.
A multimillion-dollar deal between Reverchon Park Sports and Entertainment LLC, led by Dallas Mavericks general manager Donnie Nelson, and City Hall has been on the table since 2019.
Reverchon Park Sports and Entertainment was looking to build a 3,500-seat stadium for rugby, soccer, lacrosse and baseball games. But the deal was on its last leg, which was just kicked out from under it.
In a memo sent out Wednesday, John D. Jenkins, Park and Recreation Department director, wrote: “...Due to extreme disruptions in the professional sports and financial industries caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the contract was not able to be successfully executed.”
Nelson and the rest of the investors behind the project were supposed to submit all required documentation along with a signed contract by Sept. 30. With the deadline passed, Jenkins said park and recreation staff have ceased all negotiations on the deal.
“We plan to continue to explore options to renovate the ballfield and enhance the park to meet the expectations of the community that were identified through this process,” Jenkins said.
Reverchon Park Sports and Entertainment LLC could not be reached for comment, but their failure to close the deal is a victory for others.
You might see Lee Daugherty, a Dallas community organizer, with some Champagne out at Reverchon Park soon celebrating on behalf of himself and everyone else who fought the project. “We get to officially celebrate another failed privatization scheme of a public asset in Dallas,” Daugherty said.
The fight against the deal has been long. Through the years, there have been plans, maneuvers and ideas proposed about how to revitalize the park, Daugherty said.
The ongoing debate in the neighborhood was whether to restore the ballpark or build anew, he said. Either way, the ballpark does need some help. “No one’s arguing that," he said. "It could use some new paint, the bathrooms need fixing and the bleachers need to be redone.” But it doesn't need to be turned into a shiny, new cash machine.
The park board approved the deal around this time last year by a 12-3 vote but it failed to get majority support when it was brought to the City Council a couple of months later.
The deal would have been dead in the water right then and there if councilmember Casey Thomas hadn’t called for its reconsideration in January. His motion to reconsider was backed by 10 of his colleagues on the council, which ultimately approved the deal.
Thomas did not respond for comment.
The move sparked outrage from residents and prompted some to pursue legal action against the city. In a suit filed in February, neighbors argued that the city did not receive enough community comments and did not provide a viable alternative to the deal before agreeing to it.
Councilmember Adam Bazaldua said he never supported the project because the end result would not have benefited the community. It would have provided revenue for a few instead of restoring the area for the residents, he said.
“I am very excited about the news and think this is ultimately a win for the community,” Bazaldua said.
Jesse Moreno, a former park board member, said he has been working as a member of Restore Reverchon Group to raise funds for restoring the park. He said the group aims to raise $150,000 in private funds with the hope that the city will match their donations.
Moreno said they’ve been told that restoring the ballpark could cost up to $3 million, but independent studies contradict this. He said the field can be restored for as little as $300,000.
Councilmember David Blewett originally voted against the deal last year then quietly asked for another vote shortly after. He has since grown impatient. "At a certain point, it was time for the city to explore other options," Blewett said. "I think this is the right decision."
Blewett said he is pitching in $100,000 from District 14 discretionary budget. Additionally, some leftover $200,000 in 2006 bond money is also expected to go toward the cost of restoring the field.
“This will give you a premier baseball field for recreational purposes,” Moreno said. “Our efforts are not to transform this into a state-of-the-art venue, but rather to restore it to its original glory.”