FROM JUNE 2018
On Wednesday’s Hometown Headlines Radio Edition on WRGA 98.7 FM, Bob Zurcher, manager and chief financial officer at LakePoint, joined us to talk about what’s next for the campus following Monday’s bankruptcy filing. We’ll post the audio from the interview soon. Here are some of the highlights:
- LakePoint expects up to 1.2 million people will visit its ballfields, indoor facilities and other sports venues in 2018. The summer season is the peak and are keeping 150 total employees busy, he says. They expect to grow by 10 percent in 2019
- Growth continues, especially on the north campus just above Old Allatoona Road. LakePoint Parkway will be extended to Red Top Mountain, opening up a second area for development. The cost of the infrastructure — road and bridge — is $30 million, he says.
- The issues that got LakePoint into trouble, he says, include capitalization. He credits the “visionaries” who conceived LakePoint and got the project moving but says overall capitalization was the issue that got the sports destination into trouble. Have access to Rimrock and its $4 billion in wealth will help LakePoint emerge from Chapter 11 debt free in five months or less, he says.
- The annual economic impact of LakePoint continues at $100 million, he adds, so that means nearly a half-billion dollars pumped into Northwest Georgia’s economy since its opening in 2014.
Hometown Headlines was part of a series of interviews Tuesday morning with the key figures of LakePoint as the development moves into the bankruptcy and post-bankruptcy stages while continuing all operations on the campus in Emerson. Taking part in the conversation were:
- Dan Berman is senior managing director of Atlanta-based GlassRatner, an Atlanta-based advisory firm experienced in destination resorts, finance, real estate and construction, which is working with Rimrock Capital Management, which has taken control of LakePoint.
- Bob Zurcher is the manager and chief financial officer of LakePoint.
We’ve broken down the conversation on the key topics we asked about. Their responses are below:
About bankruptcy: They expect this to be a quick process with the federal bankruptcy court in Rome, perhaps wrapped up in 120 to 150 days. The court will need time to evaluate and hopefully validate the equity plan. Rimrock, for example, has a $22 million stake in this while early equity partners account for another $8 million. Vendors also are among the creditors and they will be paid in cash, they said.
About existing partnerships: They labeled groups such as Coca-Cola, Mizuno and WellStar as sponsors who have specific contract terms, including for specified number of years. The new group’s goal, they said, is to build on those relationships and, in turn, increase their value. Likewise, LakePoint is open to and will seek additional partners. “There are opportunities for these sponsors and others,” Berman said.
About Bass Pro: (From Hometown: The outdoors retailer at one point announced a 100,000-square-foot retail operation and adjoining acreage for development as part of the south campus. The eventual merger with Cabela’s, which operates a same-sized store just down I-75 in Acworth, had Bartow development officials raising questions about what’s next for Bass Pro. One suggestion was a resort-type development which Bass Pro has developed elsewhere). Asked about Bass Pro, Berman said he doesn’t know exactly what they’ll do with their land at LakePoint. Bass Pro “is smart and well-capitalized” at this point so LakePoint is curious to see if the retailer will perhaps try “other types of business” in Emerson.
About this summer’s expected business and 2019: LakePoint has 150 total employees on site and that’s not including those working with the hotels, restaurants or even partner Perfect Game. Employment is at its peak level as the summer is the busiest season, Berman said, adding that the LakePoint model is now one of year-round operation (especially with the massive indoor facility). Berman expects this to be “the busiest summer yet” at LakePoint, which is key as the development is drawing more than 1.1 million fans per year. He cited a June calendar filled with events and how the current management team is “very committed to the schedule.” Zurcher added that the plan is for “continued growth next year.” Reasons for that growth, Berman says, are LakePoint’s reputation around the country as well as in this market. Employee cooperation and care of visiting teams has been and will be the “hallmark of LakePoint.”
- Hometown Headlines will take part in a conference call with the new LakePoint operators at 10 this morning. We will have updates beginning immediately afterward.
- From LakePoint’s Facebook page: “LakePoint is excited to announce that it has filed a pre-arranged restructuring of its capital to attract additional investment and catalyze new projects. Games will go on, 10% growth is expected this year, and quality service and guest experience remain top priorities.” Expanded statement
- Operations continue as planned at all venues; former Braves’ ace John Smoltz was on site Monday. Click photo gallery
LakePoint Sports South and its affiliates have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Northern District of Georgia based in Rome.
Docket number 18-41341 has been assigned to Judge Barbara Ellis-Monroe as the Emerson-based company lists 67 pages of creditors (between 0 and 49 in all) with founders and/or organizers listed among them including retiring state Rep. Earl Ehrhart of Mableton ($1.07 million) and Judy Sparks of Smartegies public relations ($196,000).
The company, and its united affiliates, list assets of $50,000 or less; liabilities range from $10 million to $50 million, according to electronic court records.
The filing comes after recent reports of management takeovers and an infusion of $10 million slotted for “go forward” efforts at the 1,300-acre sports mecca just off I-75.
LATEST STATEMENT FROM
LakePoint media release, 6 p.m. Monday: LakePoint Sporting Community is recapitalizing in a move to achieve its vision for becoming the premier travel sports vacation destination.
The LakePoint Land entity is filing a pre-arranged Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Georgia. The filing is expected to allow LakePoint to quickly emerge with a clean balance sheet and strong financial outlook.
“The recapitalization will strengthen the company’s financial picture so LakePoint can grow and flourish. It creates financial certainty and stability for the project and puts LakePoint on a clear growth trajectory,” said Dan Berman with GlassRatner, who is leading the restructuring on behalf of LP Investments I, an affiliate of Rimrock Capital, a fund with $4 billion of assets under management. Rimrock is the lender and main capital source for LakePoint and has been so for the past five years.
LakePoint is heralded as a premiere family vacation sports destination with state-of-the-art indoor and outdoor facilities for athletic tournaments and scouting events. LakePoint hosts more than 40 sports, including baseball, softball, basketball, gymnastics and sand volleyball. LakePoint’s indoor complex, the Champions Center, was both the newest and busiest facility in the past year. The complex hosted 578 event days occurring from June 2016 to May 2017, making LakePoint a year-round destination.
During the brief bankruptcy process, people should see few changes in the normal course operations, said Bob Zurcher, Manager and CFO. LakePoint will continue to operate as before, existing management will remain, employees and vendors will continue to get paid in full and on time, and tournaments, events and games will go on.
LakePoint expects to grow 10 percent this year. “What we hope people do notice is LakePoint’s continued commitment to service and quality guest experiences along with Rimrock’s commitment to LakePoint’s continued success.” Zurcher added.
Certain facilities and venues, including the indoor sports pavilion, the entertainment venues, and the surrounding hotels and restaurants, are not included in the Chapter 11 filing as they are not owned by LakePoint. LakePoint Land has acted as a master developer and sold parcels to third parties for development.
Rimrock and LakePoint plan to continue the legacy of master developing the 1,300-acre project. Rimrock already has purchased additional acreage around campus and a new master plan is in the works. Rimrock has hired real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle and other professionals to help with the planning and analysis.
“We’re extremely positive about LakePoint’s future,” he added. “LakePoint is an important asset to us at Rimrock. We’ve already invested millions of dollars in both LakePoint and surrounding land, and we plan to invest millions of dollars more. We believe in and support the original vision of LakePoint and we believe the project’s best years are yet to come.”
Why bankruptcy? In November 2016, LakePoint Land deeded land to Rimrock as part of a loan workout. In the pre-arranged filing, Rimrock will contribute the land it now owns back to LakePoint Land. Rimrock’s debt will be converted to equity, making Rimrock the largest shareholder in the project. This will allow LakePoint to emerge from bankruptcy debt free and with the certainty of being clear of any claims. As part of the plan, existing shareholders will share in LakePoint’s future success.
While LakePoint’s development of athletic facilities started fast, growth of supporting businesses – from hotels to restaurants to entertainment venues – didn’t go fast enough to create a thriving eco-system. “We hope to change that,” Berman said.
Progress: Progress on future projects already has started: Giant bulldozers, scrapers and trucks are working around the clock on a road-bridge expansion. This significant project will extend LakePoint Parkway from Allatoona Road to Red Top Mountain Road and will serve as a catalyst for more development.
More than 1 million people visit LakePoint annually, which creates an economic impact of nearly $100 million from room nights at hotels, restaurant visits, shopping and other entertainment.
“We’re only 50 minutes from the world’s busiest airport, and right off of I-75, so it’s easy to get here from just about anywhere,” Berman said. “And our attention to detail at the indoor and outdoor facilities can’t be matched. The reorganization will allow us to leverage these strengths to grow into the most sought-after sports venue of our kind.”
Below is our latest story on LakePoint, posted on May 7.
By Natalie Simms
It was four years ago, May 2014, when the first baseball games were played at LakePoint Sporting Community in Emerson with high hopes of becoming “the premiere vacation destination for traveling athletes and their families.” But slow movement on the ambitious master plan for the 1,300-acre campus now brings some changes in ownership and a new direction for the development.
California hedge fund manager and investment advisor Rimrock Capital Management has taken control of the project and is working with GlassRatner, an Atlanta-based advisory firm experienced in destination resorts, finance, real estate and construction, to set up a “go-forward” plan for LakePoint.
“Our vision is much the same as the founders: For LakePoint to be the premiere vacation destination for traveling athletes and their families,” says Dan Berman, senior managing director with GlassRatner.
“Rimrock is updating the master plan to bring the vision into clear focus, especially around our expansion plans for the North Campus. Our goal is to preserve and improve upon the investment already made in state-of-the-art facilities and to grow LakePoint to its full potential. Nothing will visibly change as we do this – the team on the ground will remain, the games will go on and we will continue to grow . . .”
Rimrock is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission with over $4 billion of assets under management. The majority of Rimrock’s assets are from institutional investors, including pension funds and endowments. According to Berman, LakePoint assets transferred to Rimrock in late 2016 and they’ve been working “at doing the things that will set LakePoint up for sustained, long-term success.
“We’re funding operations, making additional investments and evaluating new initiatives to enhance the overall offerings on both the North and South campuses. We believe our involvement further strengthens LakePoint and gives it a strong financial foundation,” says Berman.
With much of the south campus filled (Perfect Game’s baseball fields, Terminus Wake Park, Rally volleyball complex, massive indoor center, recreation center and a series of restaurants and hotels).
One of the big question marks remains the Bass Pro Shops site, one of the original anchors of LakePoint. With Cabela’s just a few exits away, the giant outdoor retailer could take another approach — including accommodations as has been done in other regions. Bass Pro and Cabela’s wrapped up their $4 billion merger last fall.
What’s ahead in future development?
For now, the next area of growth is focused on the 600-acre north campus.
“The road and bridge construction to North Campus is well under way. Giant dozers, scrapers and trucks are working around the clock,” says Berman. “This significant project will extend Lakepoint Parkway from Allatoona Road to Red Top Mountain Road and will serve as a catalyst for more development. We expect to see construction for the remainder of 2018 and into 2019.”
“Growth at LakePoint translates into full-time and part-time jobs, hotel nights, meals at restaurants and people coming to our region to enjoy a family vacation. We’re looking to the future to achieve our vision of creating the ultimate ‘stay and play’ destination at LakePoint,” says Berman.
To that end, Rimrock has engaged national experts in real estate/master planning and sports marketing, including Jones Lang LaSalle, a global real estate company with previous ties to Rome’s Mount Berry Mall.
“We are refining our master plan with demand studies and enhancing our marketing strategies vis-a-vis our sponsors, tournament operators and guests,” says Berman. “This is all in keeping with our goal of elevating LakePoint in all respects. And consistent with our institutional mindset of growing LakePoint in a thoughtful way, through in-depth analysis and success-based investing.”
The original master plan for the north campus included more baseball fields, soccer fields, tennis courts, golf course and more. That plan currently is being reworked. That plan included an Atlanta Braves clubhouse store and additional baseball-related amenities.
“We are making $10 million of investment at LakePoint. This shows how we’re committed to this project and have the capital and talent to make it succeed,” says Berman.
Rimrock is tight-lipped about what new development we could see short-term.
“We’re on a path to continue growing the events and tournaments we book here. With more than a million visitors per year, LakePoint contributes nearly $100 million in annual economic impact to Bartow County and the surrounding region. Hotel revenues in Bartow County alone have almost doubled in the past few years with LakePoint being a significant contributing factor,” says Berman.
“This past year, we hosted three major grass roots basketball tournaments – Adidas, Under Armour and Nike – with some of the best high school players in the nation. Our bookings are strong in 2018 as we already have booked 47 out of 52 weekends and we’re still booking. LakePoint is positioned to grow 10 percent in terms of bookings in the next year and we’re proud of that.”
Bartow County officials also are glad to see those big numbers as well as the prospect of continued development at LakePoint.
“LakePoint is moving forward. They have new management and reorganized, but they are going to keep moving forward,” says Steve Taylor, Bartow County Commissioner. “I’ve met with Rimrock officials on several occasions and they plan to keep moving ahead.
“Perfect Game continues to book tournaments that are good for Bartow County. We are seeing lots of positive economic activity and it is still growing. We expect more visitors this year than ever. In the summer in Bartow, you can hardly find a hotel room and the restaurants are packed. The economic impact is real and its big for Bartow County.”
Adds Taylor: “The development itself started slower than expected, but with big projects of this scope, they take six to 10 years. We hate it for the original investors but we’re happy with the way it’s progressing forward. You will not be able to tell any difference to the community between the new owners,” he says.
“Rimrock is committed to the master plan, which is good for Bartow County and the whole Northwest Georgia region.”