Warren County visitors bureau sues state to hold tournaments at new sports park

Credit: Lawrence Budd

Credit: Lawrence Budd

The Warren County Convention & Visitors Bureau claimed in a new lawsuit that the state’s COVID-19 response has cost it multi-millions and asked a judge to set aside state orders so it can hold tournaments at the new Warren County Sports Park at Union Village.

A lawsuit, filed Thursday in Warren County Common Pleas Court, also asks Judge Tim Tepe to award WCCVB unspecified money damages and consolidate the case with a similar one pending in Tepe’s court also against state and county health officials and filed by the Kingdom Sports Center in Franklin, Southwestern Ohio Basketball in Fairfield and Elite Ohio Players Basketball in West Chester.

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Warren County planned to pay down the debt on the recently opened $15 million complex, more than $80,000 a month, with hotel tax paid by visitors, including those expected from tournaments to be held at the complex, west of Lebanon.

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In addition, WCCVB planned to bring in $65 million in economic impact from big tournaments held at the complex, including a soccer tournament expected to bring in $14 million that it claims it lost due to the state orders designed to prevent exposure to and the spread of the new coronavirus.

As a result, WCCVB may not be able to make the debt payments “potentially losing the ability to manage that facility,” according to the lawsuit filed by lawyer Rob Fischer.

Fischer is also a judge in Warren County Court, where misdemeanors and small claims are filed.

Like the common-pleas lawsuit it could be consolidated with, and ones filed on behalf of amusement parks, water parks, day-care centers and Montessori schools across Ohio, the WCCVB claim challenges the state authority and criticizes the orders for leaving unanswered questions inhibiting their ability to do business.

“WCCVB cannot determine from the Director’s Orders which competitions and tournaments are permitted, and which competitions and tournaments are prohibited as there are not sufficient definitions for non-contact, limited contact and contact sports,” according to an affidavit by WCCVB Director Phil Smith filed with the lawsuit.

“With the current Director’s Orders, WCCVB cannot effectively plan for the remaining competitions and tournaments.”

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Games in a national boys’ baseball tournament were being played Friday at the sports complex, just outside Lebanon.

No hearings had been scheduled in the WCCVB lawsuit Friday.

A preliminary injunction hearing is scheduled for Aug. 3 in Tepe’s court in the lawsuit filed by the youth sports organizations and Kingdom Center.

On Thursday, the state filed a motion to change venue for the lawsuit on behalf of the day-care centers.

The Warren County lawsuit on behalf of water and amusement parks was dismissed after the state issued an order enabling Kings Island to open, but a similar lawsuit for Cedar Point and Kalahari Resorts continues in Erie County Common Pleas Court.

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