City enters into negotiations to fill empty concessions buildings in El Dorado Park

Concessions operations in El Dorado Park moved one step closer to reality Tuesday night after the City Council voted unanimously to approve two exclusive negotiating agreements with The Grand and Little Brass Cafe to operate at the park.

The Grand is an events space located just south of Long Beach Airport and Little Brass Cafe is located in the airport. While Little Brass could have sights on developing concessions stand, The Grand could enter into an events-based operation at the park.

There are currently two vacant former concessions buildings and an empty ranger station that could be repurposed into concessions or other uses if the city and either of the entities move forward. All three buildings are located north of Spring Street in an area that requires visitors in vehicles to pay to enter.

“The primary goal of this opportunity is about further enhancing our park visitors’ experience when they come to the regional park,” said Steven Scott, interim Director of Parks, Recreation and Marine. “We want our guests to enjoy their visit with us in hopes that they’ll come back for many happy returns in the park.”

The exclusive negotiating window will last for 180 days and will allow city staff and the two entities to discuss rent structure, hours of operation and potential uses. If agreements are reached, those would head to the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission before potentially being forwarded back to the City Council for final approval.

City officials clarified that the vote was not an approval of any business or proposed use, but just an approval for city staff to move forward in discussions with Little Brass and The Grand.

Councilwoman Stacy Mungo, who represents the portion of East Long Beach that contains El Dorado Park, said the idea is a creative one that could help bring in much-needed revenue to address a litany of needs at El Dorado.

She explained that there are bathrooms that need to be repaired, playgrounds that need to be upgraded, grass and trees that need to be replanted, dredging and pump systems that need to be fixed and concrete around the park’s lakes that need to be redone.

With the city now facing the very real prospect that Measure A, a sales-tax measure that has been used to upgrade parks and other city infrastructure over the past three years, could actually be phased out. A ballot measure to extend it indefinitely is now failing by several hundred votes and Mungo said getting concessions in the park could be helpful.

“I think that a pilot program could demonstrate its value in being able to reinvest in the beauty of El Dorado Park,” Mungo said. “But it could also demonstrate that it’s not a good fit. Only time will tell.”

While having concessions available could meet the needs of everyday visitors, much like the city is trying accomplish along the city’s beaches, having an events operator on premises could help preserve the park through ensuring that large events like family reunions and holiday celebrations don’t deteriorate the park.

Mungo, while noting that she’s not aware of what uses are being negotiated, said that having a known commodity like The Grand to enforce permits for large events, administer safety deposits that could result in a cleaner park and even possibly providing catering options for film crews that use the park could all serve as a benefit.

When news that the city was seeking an entity to reimagine the concessions stands became public earlier this year residents formed an online petition to “save” the park from developers but also to protect the park from any negative impacts that might be brought by concession stands. The petition has garnered over 15,000 signatures to date.

 

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.
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