Despite promises that a 16-field baseball park will mean revenue for local hotels, a lodging and restaurant group balks at tournament organizer’s attempt to set room rates.
The Nations Baseball Park in Newberry is set to open in late June, and although the $7 million complex will bring hundreds of youth baseball players and their families to Alachua County, a hotel trade group is unhappy.
Lou Presutti, owner of the youth baseball organization that will be staging tournaments at the baseball fields, is taking the position that hotels must price all their rooms for baseball families at $99 per night, with $25 returned to his organization him as a “rebate.” But this has been met with resistance.
“We’re against fixing our prices,” says John Barli, vice president of the North Central Florida Chapter of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.
Presutti counters that he’s trying to protect participants from price-gouging caused by high demand that tournaments will create during normally slack periods of the year. “I’m making it as easy as possible for families to enjoy their time without the feeling they’re being taken advantage of as tourists,” he explains.
Presutti’s website, Nationspark.com, states, “all team members and families are required to stay in the same hotel room as players.” This will promote team camaraderie and communication with players and their families, Presutti says.
Barli says that setting a flat fee for hotel rooms is unfair because hotels vary widely in their cost of doing business and what they offer. “Since guests of all the properties are paying the bed tax, we believe all the hotels they should have a fair shot at the guests,” he says. “We’re paying the note [for the complex].”
The outcome of the conflict between the trade group and Prescutti is uncertain. Barli says that as far as he knows, no hotels have signed a contract with Prescutti. Presutti says he’s encouraged by his negotiations with individual hotels, and he’s confident about coming to terms with enough hotels to accommodate his needs.
Presutti operates Cooperstown Dream Park in the small New York state community that is home to the Baseball Hall of Fame. In Cooperstown, tournament participants stay in dormitories, and Presutti has no influence over area hotel rates that their parents pay.
He touted the economic benefit of the Newberry project when he enticed the Alachua County Commission to devote a portion of the county’s tourist development tax to the project.
One cent of the tax goes to the complex, consisting of 16 youth baseball fields with artificial turf infields.The county is using $625,000 a year from the tourist tax so Newberry can cover its 20-year bonds on the baseball complex.