UTPB to City: Leave the fields intact

UTPB President Sandra Woodley sent a letter to Odessa’s mayor and city council detailing that the council should not vote to allow local sports associations to remove permanent structures from the UTPB athletic fields.

Woodley, in the letter, details that the university was informed that some associations will ask the council to allow them to remove bleachers, fences, goals and other permanent structures that currently are part of the UTPB complex.

She thanks the city for the partnership for 25 years and writes that she hopes for a smooth transition. She also asks the city to leave the fields intact and that the fields will be utilized by Odessans including a number of community groups who have already expressed interest in using the fields.

UT system attorneys also sent a letter to Odessa City Attorney Natasha Brooks warning that the current lease only allows the city to remove structures and not any third parties. The letter also outlines what UTPB will allow in terms of removing any items.

This follows a week of social media unrest regarding the fields at UTPB. The current lease expires at the end of August and the city walked away from negotiations with UTPB.

Despite a number of social media posts to the contrary, UTPB is not kicking any group off the fields. The university was asking for a lease that adheres to current UT system guidelines. The city, meanwhile, has spent 25 years building up the facility with tax dollars. The OA has requested how much money has been spent in the last 25 years but has yet to get that figure.

Local sporting associations have made it clear that they wanted to continue to play for free at the facility. The original lease called for a $1 a year lease plus 10 percent of other funds. It is not clear if the city ever paid the $25 but no other monies have been paid to UTPB during the 25 years.

Odessa Mayor Javier Joven told a crowd at the fields that he plans to float a bond to build another recreation complex in the city.

City Manager Michael Marrero canceled a scheduled interview to discuss the situation and issued a news release detailing that the city decided not to renew the lease.

That release came after Joven told a crowd assembled at UTPB: “The City of Odessa did not, in any form or fashion, cancel this contract. We do not own the property. It is university land and they did send a letter and it is public. University sent word to the city of Odessa cancelling the 25-year contract.”

However, the letter he refers to is not a cancellation but rather an acknowledgement that the lease was ending.

It was at that same rally of players from local associations who are unhappy with the situation that Joven said he was going to make an announcement “that’s going to come with a little bit of controversy” about floating a bond issue.

He did not address why the city would walk away from 25 years of improvements at the UTPB fields and start all over on a new “recreation” facility