Midland County Commissioners voted Wednesday to renew the Horseshoe Complex’s management contract until 2024 – more than a year before the contract was set to expire and without hearing bids from other companies.
The Horseshoe Complex, managed by Dooley Management, is the county’s tax-funded event venue that has remained controversial since its inception in 2006. This is largely due to the county’s decision to build it without voter approval and the millions of dollars it poured into the facility – including $32,000 it recently lost subsidizing a Doobie Brothers concert.
County Commissioner Luis Sanchez, a Democrat but self-proclaimed fiscal conservative, was the only commissioner to vote against the motion, stating that he’d like to hear bids from other companies before deciding. “We are committing future courts, and they didn’t blink an eye on that,” Sanchez told the Midland Reporter Telegram after the meeting.
Sanchez also questioned whether the alleged economic impact of the Horseshoe, which Dooley Management stated was $20.3 million, was accurate.
During a presentation to the commissioners court Monday, Dooley Management presented a tally of event days and subsequent dollars made at the Horseshoe, divided by the type of event. However, in the list presented, “special events” was listed twice – once as its own event category and again as a category named “Trade Shows and Special Events.” When Sanchez asked why it was listed twice and if that affected the accuracy of the total dollar amounts listed, Dooley Management couldn’t answer and instead said they would come back with the correct numbers.
The court’s decision to vote on the contract over a year before its expiration date (September 30, 2019) raises the question: Why the rush?
If you ask County Judge Mike Bradford, he claims the upcoming budget season and “industry customs” play a role. However, looming change in county leadership could play a larger one.
Bradford, who will be stepping down at the end of the year, spearheaded the decision to open the Horseshoe and has since been a vocal proponent of it. His likely successor, however, is quite the opposite.
Terry Johnson, the Republican nominee for county judge, has remained openly critical of the county’s decisions regarding the venue and made that clear during the recent campaign season.
During the public comment portions of Wednesday’s court meeting he questioned why commissioners would rush to renew the contract instead of allowing voters a say in the matter:
I ask that you, as a court, allow the new court, however it is made up, to decide how best to utilize and manage one of Midland County’s largest assets and do not negate or hamstring the future administration for the upcoming 6 years. I would also encourage the court to bring to an open forum for public discussion and input any more requests for any sizable expansion, addition or expense proposed at the Horseshoe Facility. You have been elected to do the will of the people. I believe the people have spoken on this issue!
In addition to renewing Dooley’s contract, county commissioners approved approximately $4.9 million in new capital projects for Horseshoe.