Texas Tech and its alumni association stand to lose as much as $1.2 million from leasing the Raider Park parking garage in a deal involving a number of prominent alumni of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity.
Raider Park, a $25 million venture located at 2522 Marsha Sharp Freeway, is a privately owned parking garage held by a limited partnership controlled by Clayton Isom, a 29-year-old Phi Delta Theta alumnus from Tech with deep ties to the university and its alumni board.
Currently, the lease agreement requires Tech and the alumni association to pay $750,000 a year to lease 1,000 parking spaces and 18 RV spaces, which are used by Tech students during the week and attendees at Red Raider football games on the weekends. Only about one-third of the spaces have been leased.
The university and the alumni association have lost $440,000 since the deal was signed in December of 2009. They will likely lose an additional $760,000 in the next several years.
The lack of demand, the pricing of parking spots and other shortcomings cited by students — such as location — have resulted in two-thirds of the parking garage not being filled.
In the original lease agreement, the alumni association assumed responsibility for selling the 1,000 parking permits to students. However, when fewer than 100 student permits were sold, University Parking Services took over the responsibility.
The prices of the parking permits were lowered, which provided affordable parking for students but, at the same time, restricted the potential revenue for the alumni association and Tech, making it impossible to break even.
Russell Thomasson, special assistant and counsel to the chancellor, said the alumni association was interested in Raider Park parking garage because of its location. They felt the garage was the best alternative to the Commuter North parking lot. However, 1,022 people remain on the waiting list for Commuter North despite roughly 650 parking spots being available at Raider Park parking garage.
The Red Raider Club also became responsible for parking on game day when the alumni association was unable to attract customers. Even if all the parking spaces and RV spaces were sold at current prices, the university would still lose several hundred thousand dollars.
“It is a failure,” said John Sims, a Lubbock attorney and legal counsel for the alumni association. “At some point in time, I think the university will see they made a bad deal.”
Sims said he advised Bill Dean, a Phi Delta Theta alumnus who is the executive vice president and CEO of the alumni association as well as an associate professor in the College of Mass Communications, not to get involved in the agreement with Clayton Isom in December of 2009.
“There is absolutely no upside-gain to this lease agreement,” Sims said. “It is the only method by which this guy (Isom) can finance it.”
Clayton Isom is the son of a former president of the alumni association, Rex Isom, also a Phi Delta Theta alumnus. Rex Isom was on the alumni board at the time of the vote and recused himself when the alumni association voted on the lease agreement. He is one of the guarantors of the $18 million loan from American State Bank to finance the parking garage.
Customarily, banks may require the individual limited partners to sign guarantee agreements, although the names of the limited partners are not required by state law to be divulged and are typically kept secret. The guarantee agreement was filed for record in the Lubbock County Clerk’s office.
Mike Jackson, a loan officer for American State Bank, would not comment on the loan made to the Raider Park Limited Partnership or the guarantees.
Other individual guarantors of the loan are:
Nancy Isom, Clayton Isom’s mother and a current member of the alumni association board
Rhashid Al-Hmoud, an associate professor of economics and geography at Tech
Ben and Jeannie Ralston, Gold Members of the alumni association and relatives of the Isom family
ICS Investment Limited Partnership, which allegedly includes Clayton Isom, Al-Hmoud and John Sellers.
Al-Hmoud would not comment on his partnership with Raider Park Limited Partnership.
Phone calls to Rex and Nancy Isom and Jeannie and Ben Ralston were not immediately returned to The Daily Toreador.
According to an article published on today.ttu.edu, the Isoms and the Ralstons spearheaded the donations for the $4 million expansion of the McKenzie-Merket Alumni Center at Tech, which was named in honor of Bill and Peggy Dean. Following the expansion of the alumni center, Dean signed the lease agreement with Isom’s Raider Park Limited Partnership on behalf of the alumni association.
Dean, who refused to have his interview with The Daily Toreador recorded, said the Isoms and Ralstons donated less than 1 percent of the funds to build the expansion of the alumni association, and said he makes no apologies for any contribution a member of his fraternity might make to the alumni association.
When asked if there were any conflicts of interest or quid pro quos in the parking garage lease, Dean said that was “just speculation.”
Dean said he signed the lease agreement because the 33-member alumni board approved the contract.
“In fact, we probably never would have participated in this if the university hadn’t agreed to come on board. We weren’t willing to take on that kind of an obligation,” he said. “So if the university was not willing to partner in this, we would have never done it. We’re still very hopeful that this will someday be a go. And if it is, then we can look back on it and say we were smarter than we thought we were at the time.”
Terry Fuller, a substantial donor to the university and the president of the Red Raider Club, said the agreement upset him.
“It makes me very mad and very angry that people used their personal influences to make a deal that turns out to be potentially costing the organization a bunch of money,” said Fuller, whose wife Linda is an alumni association board member.
Sources close to the alumni association board said board member John Scovell, also a current Board of Regents member and a Phi Delta Theta alumnus, pushed the lease agreements onto both the alumni board and the Board of Regents by calling the agreement a “no-brainer.”
“I think had Mr. Scovell not been involved and pushed it through,” Sims said, “it never would have happened, in my honest opinion.”
He said Scovell smoothed the issue over, and Sims said he regrets not being at the alumni association’s meeting when the vote took place.
“It is a my-way-or-the-highway attitude with him,” Sims said of Scovell. “That is the reason why I should have been there.”
Scovell said he felt the meeting with the alumni association was fair, and he merely expressed his opinions as someone who has been in the development industry in the Dallas area for nearly 40 years.
“I feel 110 percent comfortable with how the decisions were made. There were no conflicts of interests, no influence peddling. It is what it is,” Scovell said during a phone interview. “We made mistakes. I think people have admitted to those. If we were doing it over again, we probably would have done it differently.”
Scovell said he and his family have no connection to Raider Park parking garage.
“Well, absolutely no. Not only no, hell no. That is absolutely ridiculous to think that I’m getting something or that my kids are getting something in return, or we’re investors or whatever — that is garbage. And I’m offended by it,” Scovell said. “I have been so cautious to make sure the alumni association knows I’m on the Board of Regents, and I tell the Board of Regents, I want you to be sure you know that I’m on the alumni board.”
Once the four-year contract expires, the alumni association will need to decide on whether to re-sign with Raider Park Limited Partnership.
“Look at the end result. Look at what sits on that corner, and I take great pride in that. It is a great addition to Lubbock and the university,” Scovell said. “I am a cheerleader for this project. I believe in this project. I believe in it based on 38 years of history.”
The Daily Toreador filed an open records request with Tech, asking for all emails sent by and received by Tech administrators and the principals involved with Raider Park.
Tech would not release most of the emails and asked for an opinion from the Texas Attorney General on whether the emails could be released, who has until early December to issue a ruling.
However, in some of the emails released, many graduates of Tech were opposed to the parking garage, and Tech Chancellor Kent Hance wrote a memo to file after receiving the current revenue numbers for the garage, stating, “Bad deal.”
“It took a lot of my time and the sales were not as good as I hoped,” Hance said.
Dean said he thinks the parking garage will be successful over time but will not have immediate results.
He said that is how the board looked at the agreement. However, according to the agreement, the alumni association signed a four-year lease. The contract could be renewed, but sources close to the alumni association board are skeptical a renewal will be pursued.
In May, Hance helped lead the renegotiations with Raider Park Limited Partnership. In the original licensing and lease agreements, the alumni association guaranteed the limited partnership $750,000 in annual lease payments and Tech agreed to pay the alumni association half of that.
Scovell said he does not know where the $750,000 annual payment in the lease came from.
In 2010, revenues from parking at the garage only totaled $88,744.68. Tech and the alumni association renegotiated the lease, agreeing to pay about $441,000.
In 2011, the parking revenue is projected to be about $200,000. With parking revenue again expected to fall short of the lease requirement, Tech and the alumni association will be required to pay one-third of the difference, or about $183,333 each.
The renegotiated lease sets limits on the total losses to Tech at $675,000 and the alumni association at $525,000. However, Clayton Isom personally, along with one of his companies, Tao Development, agreed to pay Tech back for any losses incurred at the end of its eight-year contractual agreement. However, the alumni association does not have any such guarantee.
Sims said the alumni association really loses out.
“It is a $500,000 hickey to the ex-students,” he said.
Clayton Isom said he would like to make a comment about Raider Park parking garage, but wanted his lawyer present. However, when contacted later in the week to set up an interview, he did not return phone calls.
25Twenty, a student apartment complex located east of the Raider Park parking garage, is leasing 500 parking spaces for its residents.
A community adviser for the apartment complex said Raider Park parking garage is charging 25Twenty $2,500 a month, or $30,000 a year. However, the manager said the $2,500 number was incorrect, but refused to disclose the correct amount.
R&N Investments LLC sold the land 25Twenty occupies to APKSHV Lubbock Limited Partnership, which is headquartered in Houston. The presumed owners of R&N Investments are Rex and Nancy Isom.
The plot of land located on the east side of 25Twenty is owned by R&N Investments, but it is leased to a Clayton Isom entity, which borrowed $2.8 million from Vista Bank apparently to construct the building on the property now leased to Merrill Lynch.
John Steinmetz, who is on the Board of Regents at Tech, is also the president of Vista Bank and was in Phi Delta Theta when Clayton Isom was in the fraternity. When the renegotiated lease agreement for Raider Park parking garage was presented to the board, Steinmetz recused himself from the vote.
Steinmetz was not available for comment before publication.