With the city currently in the process of finding a company to take over the management of the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park, the council on Tuesday, July 2, approved a contract extension for Blenheim Facility Management (BFM) to continue maintaining the equestrian facility through the end of the year.

BFM’s contract was set to expire Aug. 1, but with the council voting unanimously to amend the management agreement, the contract will extend another five months and could be further extended on a month-to-month basis depending on the city’s progress in selecting a new company.

“BFM has indicated that it can continue to operate the facility under the proposed terms of the Amendment,” the city stated in its agenda report.

The city is currently undergoing its Request for Proposals process, allowing companies to vie for the contract to manage the riding park. The window to submit proposals to the city closed May 23.

Two proposal were submitted: one from Action Sports Management Group and another from Horse Services, Inc., which is doing business as Griffith Park Horse Rentals. The city has previously noted that Blenheim executives Robert Ridland and Melissa Brandes are also principals of Action Sports.

In early April, the city filed a lawsuit against Blenheim and the park’s underwriter, Tokio Marine Speciality Insurance Company, in an effort to recoup its losses from challenging an environmental group’s allegations that the equestrian park contributed to pollution in San Juan Creek.

The city’s lawsuit claims Blenheim and Tokio have failed to reimburse the city for legal costs associated with Orange County Coastkeeper’s suit filed in 2017. A settlement was reached in September 2018, requiring the city to make upgrades to the riding park and pay Coastkeeper close to $2 million in attorney’s fees.

Wayne Call, Blenheim’s attorney, has stated that the city’s suit against the management company is “without merit.”

The updated management agreement requires Blenheim to pay the city $20,000 a month for using the facilities and to “assume all maintenance obligations for the facility,” the city’s report states. The monthly payment, the city explained, is based on the $240,000 in net revenue San Juan typically receives from the operations of the park.

“If BFM or the City identifies additional revenue opportunities from events not already scheduled for the Riding Park, the Amendment calls for the City to receive 20% of the gross revenue from these additional events,” the report notes.

The city approved the current contract with BFM back in January 2018.

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