Parks and Rec to allow food truck at soccer league

Published 10:03 am Friday, April 6, 2018

For the first time, a food truck will officially be setting up during youth soccer league games at Millennium Park, after the Parks and Recreation board voted to approve the request Wednesday night.

John Drake, director of Danville-Boyle County Parks and Recreation, said Kyn Wilcher, owner of Smoky and The Brisket, has entered into a contract with the league to give a portion of the proceeds back to the league.

However, the board had to approve the request for him to set up, since the park does not allow food trucks.

Email newsletter signup

“The one thing that we don’t have during the travel season is, we don’t have lunch items that keep parents and users at the park. They take off to McDonald’s, they take off to Mallard’s … It may be that Kyn can provide a product that we don’t have at the concession stand,” Drake said.

During the soccer program, he said, they don’t open the concession stand, because it costs too much in overhead to open, operate and stock the stand.

He said it’s a win-win for Parks & Rec, which will be watching to see if inviting the trucks in is something that would benefit Parks and Recreation during the rest of the sporting events held there.

“I recommend we try it and see,” Drake said.

In the past, Parks & Rec has had the Snowie bus at the park as a vendor during youth baseball. Those were allowed because they didn’t compete with the park’s concession stands.

Drake was asked by Mayor Mike Perros, who attended the board meeting but is not on the board, if Parks & Rec would get any of the income from the truck. Drake said it did not, but it does get paid by the soccer league.

“They wanted us to drop the fee from $15 to $10 a person and we didn’t do that. It would help them with their costs to pay back the park. So, in a roundabout way, yes, as opposed to reducing that $15 to $10 … We really want to look at it, mayor, and see if we can do longterm in the summer and really collect some percentage,” Drake said.

He said the reason Wilcher was the one with contract was because he had the relationship with the soccer league. Parks and Recreation’s role is only in allowing the truck to be there.

City Commissioner Denise Terry, who was also present but is not on the board, asked why Parks & Rec couldn’t get a portion of the money generated from the food truck, too.

Drake explained that it is currently set up so that Parks & Rec charges a user fee to the soccer league, which is independent of Parks & Rec.

“We usually net about $5,000-6,000 on just the soccer program using our facility,” Drake said, explaining that it pretty much covers the cost of upkeep and marking on the fields at the park. “It’s a win for the park, because we have users out there; it’s also a win because we don’t facilitate the program.”

Board member LaFonda Stallworth said she also felt Parks & Rec should get a portion of the proceeds.

Drake said “it’s really an experiment for him. He has to prepare a lot of food … This is really just an introduction to see if it’s going to work. If it does work, then we’re going to come back to where the mayor is and we’re going to have a lot of other people that are interested in doing this. He’s taking a huge risk in doing this, because it just doesn’t work when we have a concession stand over there.”

Drake said in his mind, they’re using the soccer league and Wilcher as guinea pigs to see if bringing food trucks in is a viable strategy.

“This is more about the summer … We hope he does (make money) and we hope the soccer makes a little percentage — that will take some of their burden,” he said. “It’s been a win for the parks department.”

Drake said that soccer used to cost Parks & Rec $5,000-6,000, but now there’s been a complete 180 — they bring in revenue of about $5,000-6,000.

He said he wasn’t sure what would happen if Parks & Rec did increase the fees on the soccer league, or where the league would play if it departed from the parks department.

Stallworth said that shows Parks & Rec has the “upper hand” and should try to generate some revenue from the deal.

Terry said, “If they’ve agreed to give a percentage, why isn’t that going to Parks & Rec instead of the soccer association?”

Drake said they felt the money the league pays is fair at the moment, but if it works they could look at renegotiating the contract next year. Board Chair Roger Ross said they also aren’t sure if the plan will even work.

Terry again questioned why Parks & Rec is not getting a portion of the proceeds.

Drake said Parks & Rec would not be opening its concession stand because of the overhead costs, so allowing the food truck is allowing a service for the soccer families. Sometimes, he said, smaller groups set up in the park, which is hard to police, and if no concession stands are open, they generally allow it, since there’s no competition.

“If the board wants to come back and create a new policy, it would be a huge hardship to try to police that with the staff we have,” he said.

Board member Jeff Thornton said he felt it would be a good test. He made a motion to allow the truck to set up and, if it appears to be successful, then Parks & Rec could renegotiate next year and could potentially allow trucks during the summer.

Stallworth asked how they’d tell if it’s a success. Board Member Cecile Napier said if he asked to come back, they’d know it was successful.

“I’m just hoping if this is a success, we are going to be able to renegotiate some money for the parks department,” Stallworth said. She said she felt the contract should be with Parks & Rec, not with the soccer league.

Thornton said Parks & Rec “really didn’t have a say,” because the concessions stand wouldn’t be open. The motion included letting the soccer league and Wilcher know of Parks & Recreation’s plan to potentially host food trucks in the future. The vote passed unanimously.

Drake also shared with the board that there were supposed to be three representatives from the Parks & Rec board on the committee of stakeholders regarding the master parks plan being developed by Danville. One steering committee meeting has been held, but no one from the Parks & Rec board was present.

Thornton said he had been contacted but was out of town at the time. The other members to be included were Napier and board member Bryce Perry — both said they were not contacted. An email from Earl Coffey to Drake, presented at the meeting, said contacts were made but no one attended. The email also stated that Drake was not included because they wanted to hear from the board members.

The Parks and Rec board also appointed Bryce Perry as vice chair of the board and voted for Ross to maintain his position as chair.