Lawton_Monday night the county and the new owners of the Oklahoma Cavalry basketball team came together to come up with a plan to pay a $150,000 debt. This after the previous owner failed to pay for half of the renovations to the Great Plains Coliseum. As we told you last week, the new owners aren't legally responsible for that outstanding debt.
At a meeting Monday night between the new owners and the Fairgrounds Trust Authority, the new owners did not offer to pay off that debt. Instead, they presented the county with a long list of requests: they want the county to help them get through this season, by giving them a lower rate to use the arena, as well as let the owners keep a larger chunk of the profits from concessions and merchandise.
The county doesn't make a profit when the arena is in use -- but they use the money coming through the door to keep the lights on and pay the staff. But the new owners say if the county will let them take over those responsibilities, they can do it cheaper. "We're just trying to ask them to cut a few more corners," said co-owner John Zelbst, "just cut a little bit here and cut a little bit there, and allow us to survive so we can make it to the next year and get this thing on good footing."
And Zelbst believes if the franchise can find that footing, and generate community support, the public might even agree to do more. "May even look at trying to pass some kind of tax, small tax, that could adequately fund this facility separate of anything the commissioners have to take out of their general budget," Zelbst said.
But, in the meantime, the county still has costs to cover. "We will have to get back with the new management in about 10 days and discuss with them what we can do and what we can't do," said David Dorrell, the chairman of the Fairgrounds Trust Authority.
The trust authority decided to assign a task force to find the best solution. But, for now, it looks like the rest of these meetings will be behind closed doors. "Their task force is going to be small enough to be able to meet privately and have discussions," Zelbst said. "Of course before any decisions will be made they'll come back and be here in the public where the community will know exactly what's going on."
And while the new owners made almost all of the requests, the county wanted the new owners to commit to a long-term agreement to keep the franchise going for at least three more years. That's something that's sure to be addressed in these upcoming meetings.