Latest — 24 March 2018 — by Rowland A. Parks
GOB signs $1 mil management contract for Civic with private, foreign company

BELIZE CITY, Wed. Mar. 21, 2018– The bold nationalism that the Dean Barrow-led United Democratic Party (UDP) government espoused at the time it nationalized the telephone company, Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL), appeared to have been cast to the winds when on Monday, March 19, the government signed a 1-million-dollar contract for the management of the CIVIC, the sprawling $33 million sporting complex at the foot of the Belcan Bridge, with Apex International Services, LLC, a company registered in Florida, U.S.A.

Apex International, which will engage in profit-sharing with the Government of Belize for the revenues generated by the activities at the Civic, was recommended by a Washington-based company, ING Rebel.

Apex International is said locally to be owned by Chad Eckert. According to a document from the Florida Department of State, Apex International Event Services’ principal address is 7971 Rivera Boulevard, Miramar, Florida.

In addition to noting its principal address, the document lists the company’s registered agent as Cardozo, Eckert & Sanchez PLLC, with an address at 3440 Hollywood Boulevard, Suite 415, Hollywood, Florida.

Eckert, however, formed and registered a company in Belize, Apex Events Services Belize Limited. The directors of the company are Chad Eckert, Lucinda Fran Castillo, and Garth Anthony Guthrie, and Apex International is listed as a shareholder with 10,000 shares.

In Belize, the registered office is listed as 28 Regent Street, Belize City.

On Tuesday, the day after the contract-signing ceremony, the PUP National Deputy Leader, Hon. Cordel Hyde, at a press conference held by the People’s United Party, commented on the management contract as follows: “I think it is incredible that the government builds a $33 million building and then looks at us and says well, we can’t find anybody in the public service to manage it. There are 15 thousand public officers, some people say 17 thousand public officers, some of those persons are trained in some of the most prestigious universities in all the world, and you tell me you can’t find one public officer or a few public officers who can manage a facility like that, or learn to manage a facility like that?”

“Something about that makes no sense. At the end of the day, you hear some foreigner has gotten the contract along with some silent local partners; it is just mind-boggling to me. I don’t know, man, I’ve said it before, if we ever reach Belmopan, we should just tear that up, tear up the contract, rubbish that. I don’t see what’s so incredibly difficult to manage a stadium,” Hyde said.    Christy Maestre, the general manager of Belize Infrastructure Limited (BIL), a government agency created in 2012 to undertake the design, construction and management of capital projects  in Belize, said that the contract is for three years with a government guarantee.

Maestre said the profit-sharing will be a ladder-style one that begins at a 75/25 split at first, then it goes to 50/50, “So the government always comes out with extra above. So not only are we revenue-neutral; we have the capacity to earn money while they maintain the facility,” Maestre revealed.

“Should in those three years they are not be able to achieve this, then we believe the contract would be in failure and then we would have to decide after those three years, at two and a half years into it, we would start renegotiations, and if they are where we see the projects would be failing, we would then go out for another management entity after those three years. Should we believe that they are in success and in the mode of success, they have the first right to renegotiation,” Maestre added.

The government guarantee is for an estimated $800,000 to one million dollars a year to maintain the Civic.
Apex’s assistant general manager, Reynaldo Malik, is of the view that the company will be able to generate the revenues needed to succeed.

“The secret to generating revenue not just to cover the expenses of the Civic, but also to generate revenue back to the government, and to make it a profitable venture for Apex is going to be in our ability to utilize all 365 days of the year. That’s in essence the sort of secret sauce when it comes to venue management,” Malic offered.

Malic is of the view that they could have multiple events on any given day.

“Of course, the most obvious market would be sporting events, basketball, volleyball, boxing, UFC type events; however in a facility of this nature, you can also have conventions in here, weddings — one of the parts we are going to build in is a VIP lounge so that you can have business mixers, etc.,” Malic said.

The general manager of Apex International Limited, Chad Eckert, said he is impressed with the CIVIC.

“I’m very impressed with it. I mean, it’s a truly state of the art type of venue that is here. I mean there is lots of opportunity that you can do here, the way it was built, there are a lot of things in it that I didn’t think would be in it … when I found out that it was, I was very impressed …,” Eckert said at the signing ceremony.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports, Hon. Patrick Faber, explained that in the public interest, one thousand hours will be available for not-for-profit events.

Faber said, “We will sit with the Basketball Federation and the Volleyball Association. Those hours will be given to them as a kind of quota, and they will decide how it will be used for volleyball, how it will be used for basketball, and as well, some of the hours will be kept by the government to determine what those events are that we feel are important that can be housed here in the Civic.”

Faber added, “So we have not gotten to that point yet where we have worked out the details, other than to say that individual basketball hours or volleyball hours will be worked out by the federation and the association, so nobody can come to the Minister or the Ministry to say, ‘we want hours to play basketball.’ That is the federation’s baby, so to speak. Community activities that people want to see happen in the Civic, the government will hold on to some of those hours,” he said.

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