Copyright 2014 The Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
In a slick booklet, Palm Beach Sportsplex proposes to buy and develop the West Palm Beach-owned property being considered for a major league baseball spring training complex.
The title page bears several logos, including those of the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros. And that's the trouble.
Representatives of the two baseball teams, who are jointly in talks with the city about operating at the 160-acre site near Military Trail and 45th Street, have told Palm Beach Sportsplex that use of the logos does more than just violate copyright laws -- it also falsely suggests the group is in partnership with the two teams.
It gets more complicated. A member of the advisory board for Palm Beach Sportsplex is Katherine Waldron. She's running for City Commission, where there might be instances where the multimillion-dollar complex comes up for a vote. Waldron filed July 1 for the seat Ike Robinson is vacating after nine terms.
A Web page for both Palm Beach Sportsplex and Palm Beach Premier FC, the group that wants to put a soccer complex at the site, says, "Our Sportsplex will be developed in various phases over the course of the next few years, with the initial two phases being completed within the next two years."
Former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley, who's representing the Nationals, said he'd agreed to meet recently with the group. He and Waldron live in the same building, he said.
"I said, 'Listen -- we're competitors for the same site. Good luck,'" he said.
Then, he said, "I was frankly stunned when I saw our team's logo."
In fact, Foley said, he was surprised to see not only the baseball ones, but also those of Florida, Palm Beach County and West Palm Beach, as well as Palm Beach Premier.
"The only logo that was missing was Disney's," Foley quipped.
By coincidence, Foley said, he ran into Bob Sanders, attorney for Palm Beach Sportsplex, at West Palm Beach City Hall on Wednesday.
"We said to him that that activity (the use of the logos) had to cease and desist," Foley said. "Frankly, at this hour, we're at least close to presenting proposals to the city on our own. It does muddy the water, so to speak. Everybody's entitled to pursue their own dream, but you can't present trademarks and suggest there's some ostensible partnership."
A source close to the talks said Thursday that the teams want nothing to do with Waldron's company.
"They're trying to interject themselves into the deal," the source said.
He said the Astros and Nationals believe that they can put together "a real deal" and "don't want any nonsense to get in the way" of $50 million in potential state money for the facility.
Tom McNicholas, a local lobbyist for the Astros, said Thursday, "We have no affiliation with them (Palm Beach Sportsplex). We've never met that group."
City Economic Director Chris Roog would neither provide a copy of the proposal nor even say whether Palm Beach Sportsplex is one of the three non-baseball firms that Mayor Jeri Muoio said have made "unsolicited bids" for the tract, valued at about $12 million.
At her July 30 press briefing, Muoio said the three have invoked a state law that lets individuals or companies seek confidentiality when negotiating with a local government's economic development agency for economic incentives to either relocate to or expand their business in Florida.
Assistant Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia Baker said Thursday she wasn't aware of the company or its proposal until told about it by a reporter.
"I don't know why they have the county logo on it. You must receive our approval to use our logo. If they're using it without approval, then they are in violation," Baker said.
Sanders, the lawyer for Palm Beach Sportsplex, was out of town, his office said Thursday. Neither Katherine Waldron nor other officials of Palm Beach Sportsplex returned calls Thursday.
In 2012, Palm Beach Premier FC, including Waldron, proposed a project at the 45th Street site, starting with 13 outdoor soccer fields and eventually including other athletic facilities, a 14,000-seat soccer stadium and a hotel. Commissioners directed staff not to hold talks with Palm Beach Premier FC but instead to open the search to anyone.