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More than $3 million in upgrades planned for BG Ballpark

Even as the Bowling Green Hot Rods baseball team prepared for this week's high-stakes High A East championship series, team management was making plans for a project that involves even higher stakes.

As part of a deal to keep the Hot Rods in Bowling Green for the next decade, the Warren County Downtown Economic Development Authority has issued through Warren Fiscal Court $5.4 million in bonds that includes re-financing of upgrades already made and some $3 million worth of new improvements to the ballpark.

“It’s all driven by Major League Baseball,” said Doug Gorman, the EDA’s chairman.

What local baseball fans will notice is that the Tampa Bay Rays-affiliated team that landed in Bowling Green in 2009 as the centerpiece of the downtown Tax Increment Financing district is still playing while many other small-market minor league stadiums have been silenced.

As part of its revamping of the minor leagues, MLB last year cut 43 teams as it trimmed the number of affiliated clubs to 120 and left cities such as Lexington and Jackson, Tenn., without professional baseball.

Such a fate for Bowling Green would have been disastrous, Gorman said.

“Having a dark stadium would’ve been an obstacle too big to overcome,” he said. “The Hot Rods provide great family-oriented activities, and they’re an engine that keeps a lot of things going downtown.”

Gorman admits to being “very concerned” initially about MLB’s downsizing of its minor league system, but he said the planned upgrades to the EDA-owned Bowling Green Ballpark will improve the experience for players and fans.

The largest expense involved in the ballpark improvements is installation of LED lights for the field.

“That will cost about $700,000,” Gorman said, “but it will save us a ton on utilities.”

Other upgrades are mostly geared to the players, coaches and umpires.

They include expanding the visiting team’s clubhouse and offices for coaches and managers of both teams, along with adding better training rooms for both teams and locker rooms for female umpires.

“Major League Baseball says that whatever you have for the home team, you have to have the same for the visitors,” Gorman said.

These improvements come on the heels of other upgrades, including a new playing field installed five years ago and a state-of-the-art video scoreboard, that made Bowling Green attractive to the Rays and to MLB.

“The Tampa Bay Rays love this town, and the facility is in good shape,” Gorman said.

The EDA should be in good shape to pay off the bonds, Gorman said.

He said $3.8 million in payroll and sales tax revenue was returned from the state to the TIF district for 2019. He expects a slight drop in 2020 payments, which should be coming in October, but he’s optimistic that 2021 revenue will reflect a bounce-back from the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re hoping that the 2021 calendar year will be our first year with revenue over $4 million from the state,” he said.

Not all the ballpark upgrades are geared solely to the benefit of players and coaches.

Gorman pointed out that sections 119, 120 and 121 will get new, larger seats and food-and-drink rails.

The outfield “Bud Zone” will be transformed as well. It will have a roof structure as well as a bar and food area.

Gorman hopes to see work begin shortly after the end of the playoffs.

“It’s a pretty big upgrade,” he said. “We signed a 10-year contract with the Rays and Major League Baseball that says the upgrades have to be completed by the start of the 2023 season, but we’re trying to get as much done as possible before the first pitch next year.”

– Follow business reporter Don Sergent on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit bgdailynews.com.

Women’s Fund announces annual grant finalists

Six local nonprofits have been named finalists for the Women’s Fund of South Central Kentucky’s annual grants program, which awards $145,000.

The Barren River Child Advocacy Center, CASA of South Central Kentucky, Center for Pregnancy, Family Enrichment Center, Junior Achievement of South Central Kentucky and Potter Children’s Home and Family Ministries will each receive at least $10,000 in grants after being named this year’s finalists.

This year’s grants will be allocated differently in the fund’s ninth year because of the far-ranging effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead of four entities receiving grants and one earning a top award of $100,000, six nonprofits are named finalists and the top award will be $60,000. Overall grant amounts will be $60,000, $30,000, $20,000, $15,000 and two $10,000 awards.

“This is the largest number of grant applications submitted to the Women’s Fund,” Kathleen Overton, Women’s Fund 2021 Impact Grant chair, said in a news release. “This reminds us of the growing needs in our community. Altering the award structure to include six grants is a testimony to the resiliency and commitment of Women’s Fund members to give time, money and resources to those organizations in need.”

The Women’s Fund is a permanent endowment fund and a nonpermanent fund housed within The Community Foundation of South Central Kentucky established to benefit women and children.

The annual grant process awards grants to organizations benefiting women, children and families.

Out of 35 grant proposals, six were chosen to be presented to the membership for the final vote Oct. 26 during the group’s annual dinner at Knicely Conference Center.

The Women’s Fund of South Central Kentucky is comprised of 317 women who will cast their vote by ranking each organization from one to six with one being the organization to receive the highest grant amount, and so on.

David Hamilton, associate minister of annual giving for Potter Children’s Home and Family Ministries, said the money will fund projects such as a new playground and new transportation to school for children.

“We are very grateful at Potter Children’s for the consideration that has been given to us for the grant,” Hamilton said. “We are grateful because the work we are doing goes toward helping out single moms here at Potter’s.”

New to this year’s finalists is Centers for Hope’s Center for Pregnancy in Bowling Green. Centers for Hope Executive Director Brandy Moore said this is the first year it applied for a Women’s Fund grant after becoming a nonprofit in 2020.

“I really don’t even have words to describe how excited and humbled we are to be one of the finalists,” Moore said. “We are a very new nonprofit here in Warren County. For us, just going through and learning about the fund within itself was a process. We did it just to learn how to apply. We did not anticipate getting this far.”

The nonprofit started as a ministry of Living Hope Baptist Church in 2019. Now, Moore said there are more people who want to know about the organization.

“Regardless of the size of the grant, we would be able to use it to better market to surrounding counties,” she said. “We serve the Barren River Area Development District along with White House and Portland in Tennessee. We want to use the grant to market ourselves better and let other communities know who we are and what we do.”

The Center for Pregnancy provides pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, consultation and support for expecting mothers.

– Follow reporter John Reecer on Twitter @JReecerBGDN or visit bgdailynews.com.

WCPS, Foundry to launch new school readiness academy

Warren County Public Schools is teaming up with the Christian community center The Foundry for a new kindergarten readiness academy backed by a grant worth nearly half a million dollars.

Through the project, which is funded by a $450,000 Kentucky Division of Child Care administered grant, The Foundry will be able to add an additional preschool classroom for up to 20 high-need children. That additional classroom will come online after fall break, WCPS Community Outreach Director Tracey Young told the Daily News.

“If they start behind, they also can stay behind,” Young said.

What’s more, the Christian community center is also partnering with WCPS to launch KinderReady, an intensive summer literacy and math program set to launch next summer.

With two two-week sessions across June and July 2022, the program will work with up to 100 children in hopes they can start school on the right foot.

Through KinderReady, Young said, educators will try to move the needle for rising kindergarteners any way they can. The program will prescreen participating students to hone in on what they need the most support with, she said.

Terry Daniels, who leads The Foundry as its executive director, said it’s crucial for children to enter kindergarten ready to learn.

Research has shown that – if children are not reading on grade level by the third grade – the effects can ripple and compound throughout their entire K-12 education.

“If a child is not able to read at third grade proficiency, they will not be able to do fifth grade math,” Daniels said, noting that students who fall behind also have a much greater likelihood of dropping out of high school.

Daniels said he’s excited the grant will offer The Foundry greater capacity to serve children throughout the West End, an impoverished area of Bowling Green. The community center is prioritizing children from this area of the community, based on the high level of need there, Daniels said.

However, these dual initiatives will also be open to young children throughout Bowling Green and Warren County based on need.

“The more students we can educate early, the stronger our community will be later,” Daniels said.

– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @NewsByAaron or visit bgdailynews.com.

Warren business owner accused of tax evasion

The owner of a Scottsville business has been accused of avoiding paying employment taxes over a three-year period.

John Paul Cates, 48, of Alvaton, was indicted Sept. 15 by a federal grand jury on a count of tax evasion.

The criminal charge against Cates stems from his management of Trinity Steel Works, a Scottsville company that online records with the Kentucky secretary of state show was organized in 2011.

Federal prosecutors claim Cates willfully attempted to avoid paying employment taxes owed by Trinity from the second quarter of 2014 through the second quarter of 2017, with the exception of the first quarter of 2015.

The indictment alleges Cates committed multiple acts in an effort to avoid paying the taxes.

The alleged acts included creating the corporations Cates Cattle Co. LLC and TSW Fabrication Inc. and placing them in the names of other people to conceal his control over them; using bank accounts in the name of a relative and Cates Cattle Co. LLC to transfer funds out of Trinity Steel Works and TSW Fabrication while still maintaining control over those funds; using Trinity Steel Works to pay for more than $285,000 in personal expenses; and transferring business and personal real estate in 2017 to Cates Cattle Co.

Cates is also alleged to have deposited checks from clients made out to Trinity Steel Works into the bank account for TSW Fabrication and depositing TSW Fabrication checks into accounts for Cates Cattle Co. while claiming that TSW Fabrication was paying back loans to the cattle company.

The case was investigated by the IRS Criminal Investigations branch.

“Employers have a responsibility to their employees to withhold the proper amount of taxes and pay those taxes over to the IRS,” IRS Criminal Investigations Special Agent in Charge Bryant Jackson said in a news release. “When employers fail to do so, it affects revenue to the United States government, but more importantly, it affects their employees’ Medicare and Social Security benefits.”

Cates is set to be arraigned Sept. 29 in U.S. District Court. Online federal court records do not list an attorney for Cates.

The maximum penalties for tax evasion are five years in prison or a $250,000 fine.

– Follow courts reporter Justin Story on Twitter @jstorydailynews or visit bgdailynews.com.