For more than a decade, Edmond leaders have sought to construct an indoor sports complex to make the city a more desirable destination for sports tourism. After years of inaction, however, plans have been delayed further because Edmond’s former partner for developing such a venue has sued the city, and is asking an Oklahoma County Judge to grant it the opportunity to purchase the proposed property for the terminated complex.
Filed in August 2022, the litigation has lasted more than a year and has kept the sports complex project in limbo.
According to court documents, Summit Sports Partners alleges that the city violated their 2012 contract by improperly entering negotiations in February 2021 with another sports complex developer, FieldHouse USA. Exhibits from court filings show city staff coordinating visits and development details with FieldHouse USA representatives about seven months before the city terminated its agreement with Summit in September 2021.
“Defendants breached the development agreement by its failure to cooperate in good faith in implementing the agreement and improperly seeking to terminate the same in order to contract with another party,” Summit Sports Partners’ amended petition states.
The city of Edmond sought summary judgment of the case, arguing that the termination of its agreement with Summit Sports Partners was justified because the development group failed to commence construction by a contracted date. But Oklahoma County District Judge Don Andrews denied that motion June 22, and a pretrial conference is currently scheduled for Feb. 23, 2024.
Bill Begley, the city’s marketing and public relations manager, said city representatives cannot discuss the ongoing litigation.
Kyle Goodwin, an attorney representing Summit Sports Partners, said the parties are heading to mediation “in a month or so,” and he declined to provide further comment.
Despite 9-year agreement, construction never commenced
On Nov. 7, 2012, the city of Edmond signed an agreement with Summit Sports Partners and two other development teams to build a 155,000-square-foot sports complex, a hotel and conference center at the northeast corner of Interstate 35 and Covell Road. However, after the developers were unable to break ground on the project for nearly a decade, the city sent a notice of termination to Summit Sports Partners in September 2021.
Plans for the canceled complex included eight basketball courts, 16 volleyball courts, two indoor soccer fields, space for fitness and personal training facilities, medical and physical therapy services, 25,000 square feet of viewing and lounge space and an area for casual dining.
Edmond City Attorney Steve Murdock notified the public of the agreement’s termination April 11, 2022, stating that the city continued discussions with Covell-35 Development LLC — an entity involved in the agreement with Summit Sports Partners — about building a complex on the northwest corner of the same intersection on land owned by Covell-35 Development. Murdock said the city planned to issue a request for qualifications once a location for the complex was finally decided, subject to approval from the Edmond City Council.
“The city’s commitment to move forward with the development and construction of an indoor sports complex is still ongoing,” Murdock said at the meeting.
Upon signing the original agreement in 2012, the city spent $2 million to acquire a 19.35-acre site for the complex. The city spent $2.2 million on a 7.13-acre tract of land for the conference center and another $3 million for infrastructure improvements and other investments in the properties.
As part of the agreement, Summit Sports Partners agreed to pay $5,000 a month to rent the land from the city beginning in April 2014 and was slated to operate the complex. Originally, construction was supposed to begin by May 2014, and the complex was expected to open in the summer of 2015. Under the agreement, Summit Sports Partners could have eventually purchased the completed complex and property from the city.
In its lawsuit, Summit Sports Partners seeks damages in excess of $75,000 and a declaration entitling it to purchase the subject property pursuant to the development agreement.
Summit Sports Partners listed complex property for sale
Summit Sports Partners changed ownership in July 2014 when its current president, Sean Jones, acquired the company from Derek Turner, president of Turner and Company, and Davis Hudiburg, vice-president of the Hudiburg Auto Group. At the time the company changed hands, the city and Summit Sports Partners agreed to add six months onto the original deadline to begin construction — pushing it back from May 2014 to November 2014.
In the city’s motion for summary judgment in the lawsuit, attorneys representing the city argued that the contract’s September 2021 termination was justified, as Summit Sports Partners failed to perform certain contractual obligations, such as beginning construction by November 2014.
“Not only did plaintiff fail to perform for more than six years after the required time for performance and fail to even attempt to cure during the 60-day cure period, but plaintiff engaged in conduct amounting to anticipatory repudiation of the development agreement,” the city’s motion for summary judgment stated.
The city issued two notices of default to Summit Sports Partners in April 2017 and May 2017 in response to late rent payments that were ultimately paid in full to the city. In January 2021, the city sent Summit Sports Partners another notice of default for a late rent payment and for failing to meet its development obligations, according to the city’s reply brief in support of its motion for summary judgment. In August 2021 — one month before the city terminated the agreement — Summit Sports Partners listed the subject property, owned by the Edmond Public Works Authority, for sale.
“Plaintiff’s attempted sale of the property was a voluntary affirmative act completely contradictory to and inconsistent with furtherance of the plaintiff’s obligations under the development agreement and was an unequivocal repudiation of the contracts,” the city’s motion stated. “This repudiation — coupled with plaintiff’s seeming disregard for defendants’ first, second and third notices of default — made clear to defendants that plaintiff had no intention of constructing a sports complex on the subject property.”
In its petition, the company claimed the city advised Summit Sports Partners representatives that it had “no objection to the property being put up for sale” in April 2021. However, the city’s answer argued otherwise.
“Plaintiff has waived or is otherwise estopped by its conduct from asserting breach of contract by its own breach of contract, defaults, failure to cure, and unclean hands in seeking to sell public property for its own private gain,” the city replied.
In its motion opposing summary judgment, Summit Sports Partners denied responsibility for not commencing construction, instead blaming the city for an alleged “unilateral” change of location from the northeast corner of I-35 and Covell Road to the northwest corner. In its motion opposing summary judgment, Summit Sports Partners argued that Edmond officials “considered the construction deadline extended” in response to the city’s relocation proposal, which was introduced in 2020.
“As late as Feb. 8, 2021, the city considered the construction deadline extended as its proposal for changing the location contained a construction commencement date of no later than May 1, 2022,” the company stated.
Additionally, Summit Sports Partners has argued that the time requirements of the development agreement were not “important to or enforced by the defendants.” According to the plaintiff’s motion opposing summary judgment, at the time Jones acquired Summit Sports Partners from Turner and Hudiburg in July 2014, “no material progress had been made in construction by the prior developer” and the agreement was already in “technical default” because construction had not started by the original May 2014 deadline.
“The city’s primary allegation contained within the motion for summary judgment elicits even the least inquisitive to wonder, if Summit breached the agreement in 2014 as alleged by the city, why on earth did it keep accepting monthly rent payments and not declare default until seven years later?” Summit attorneys wrote. “The reason is simply, the city’s motion ignores years of discussions, resolutions, rent payments, subsequent agreements, and most importantly, the city’s own demanded but unwritten change in terms in a thinly veiled attempt to distract this court from the city’s own breach of the ground lease and the development agreement.”
Consultant: Indoor complex a top priority for sports tourism
While members of the Edmond City Council watch the litigation and receive updates during executive sessions, the goal of creating a high-calibre complex with volleyball and basketball courts has gone unfulfilled.
A recent report by Victus Advisors, a sports and recreation consulting firm from Utah, showed that — alongside renovating baseball fields at A.C. Caplinger Sports Complex and Mitch Park — constructing an indoor sports complex with basketball and volleyball courts would best maximize the opportunity for economic impact by attracting regional and national youth sports tournaments to Edmond.
“[Victus Advisors] made it the No. 1 priority in Edmond, because we don’t have basketball and volleyball courts in the Edmond city limits,” said Jennifer Thornton, director of Visit Edmond. “It would be a huge benefit. It’s definitely a priority.”
The area west of I-35 and north of the intersection of East Covell Road and North Sooner Road — adjacent to the area where the indoor sports complex was proposed to be relocated — is intended to be developed into an “entertainment district,” Thornton said. In addition to the ShowBiz movie theater, the area already includes the Hilton Garden Inn and Edmond Conference Center.
“It’s right off I-35 and Covell. It’s right near Route 66. It’s the perfect place for family, sports, entertainment,” Thornton said. “So that’s our vision.”