Ten months after relinquishing management of the Bush Tabernacle, Purcellville Teen Center President Phil Message is back in.
The teen center again took over operational management in the tabernacle on Nov. 1., acting as a subcontractor to Shaun Alexander Enterprises, which has been contracted by the Town of Purcellville since Jan. 1 to manage the Fireman’s Field complex, including the tabernacle, through 2022.
Message said Alexander reached out to him in August to see if he would be interested in returning. “We’ve been discussing for a few weeks now about how to make that happen,” said Message, who had managed the property from 2010 until the Town Council terminated his contract in January to bring in Alexander.
When the town announced a partnership with Alexander to manage the 15.89-acre complex in November, Message was forced to leave by Dec. 29 after seven years in the tabernacle.
Beginning Jan. 1, Alexander took over management of the complex with Play to Win, a regional sports management company, as a subcontractor handling day-to-day operations in the tabernacle.
Alexander was initially required to pay the town $120,000 in 2018—$88,800 more than the teen center paid annually.
Aside from the Teen Center’s departure, many residents were angered by Play to Win’s April announcement that it would increase user fees in the complex. That decision upset the Upper Loudoun Youth Football League, which had previously paid the county about $9,000 annually and was then faced with an estimated $12,500 annual payment. Kevin Keane, the league’s president, announced on April 11 that the league would look for another location to play its 2018 games.
That same month, the deal between Alexander and the town began to fall apart.
It started when Alexander requested an $87,500 reimbursement for initial cleanup, repairs and maintenance of the complex from the town, which was $27,500 more than the town was contractually obligated to pay. In June, the Town Council voted to approve the $60,000 reimbursement that the contract allowed for in year one.
In July, Play to Win informed Alexander that it would terminate its contract early. A month later, Alexander told the town that he would terminate his contract effective Sept. 1., prompting Play to Win, Discover Purcellville and Message to submit proposals to the town detailing their desires to manage operations in the tabernacle.
Less than two weeks later, upon realizing that the town viewed the termination as a breach of contract, Alexander wanted back in. The Town Council then voted to approve a contract amendment that eliminated Alexander’s obligation to maintain the athletic fields and reduced his monthly rent payments from $10,000 to $4,000.
In response, the county last month agreed to resume maintenance of the athletic fields.
Message, who went to work as the office manager of Movement Mortgage just a few blocks away from the tabernacle when he left in December, is now focused on restoring the teen center’s previous prices and programs. In addition to making admission free for everyone, although keeping skating rental fees at $6, he’s also focused on reducing concession prices and reinstating basketball and bi-weekly toddler time.
“We’re basically rolling back everything,” Message said. “We’re reverting to the way it used to be.”
Moreover, Message is trying to boost Friday night teen attendance numbers, which were around 100 in previous years but have been hovering around 20 lately.
“The goal is to get those numbers back up again,” he said. “Right now our main focus is to increase attendance and revenue.”
Message said that he hasn’t spoken with anyone in Town Hall other than Parks and Recreation Division Manager Amie Ware and Events Specialist Hibah Salah, who he said were excited about his return. “It’s nice to be back and everyone is very welcoming,” Message said.