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Granite Park operators pushing for permit to bring alcohol to the old ball game

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Fresno City Hall’s planning department could make its recommendation by today (March 31) or Monday on an interesting conditional use permit application tied to Granite Park.

The application was filed by Paul Miller of The Vernal Group on behalf of Terance Frazier of the Central Valley Community Sports Foundation.

This is what the March 27 meeting agenda of the District 4 Plan Implementation Committee says: “The applicant requests authorization to establish a State of California Alcoholic Beverage Type 47 alcohol license (Restaurant – sale of beer, wine, and distilled spirits for consumption on the licensed premises) for the snack bar and temporary ticket booth (phase 1 development) at Granite Park.”

According to a planning department official, the District 4 committee voted 3-2 to recommend approval of the CUP. The official said the committee also recommended a two-drink limit per customer.

Granite Park, of course, is the conventional name for the recreational-commercial project on Dakota Avenue between Ashlan and Dakota avenues in Central Fresno. Harpain’s Dairy was there decades ago.

The current site is actually two separate entities of about equal acreage. I won’t go into Granite Park’s long and convoluted history. It’s enough to note that the original developer had a simple and promising business model.

Half of Granite Park would have sports fields – baseball, softball, soccer. A nonprofit would run things. Athletes and spectators from throughout the city and region would come. We’re talking thousands of consumers cycling through the fields every week.

The other half of Granite Park would be full of restaurants, taverns, night spots and merchandisers. A for-profit entity would run things. Consumers specifically interested in these businesses would flock to Granite Park. More importantly, a high percentage of those exhausted Granite Park athletes and spectators would trek a few yards to the Granite Park restaurants and watering holes after the games.

The athletic half (fun and games for the whole family) would complement the retail half (fun and food for the whole family, with the significant addition of products designed to satisfy adult appetites, i.e. booze).

That’s partly why the original developer had a big stake in both halves. He didn’t want one side competing with the other, to the possible detriment of both.

The original developer’s plan hit the rocks some years back. Granite Park’s two halves now have different owners. The commercial half is owned by an out-of-town developer. The athletic fields are owned by City Hall.

Frazier, of course, is one of Fresno’s most successful developers. He and TJ Cox have a deal with City Hall to renovate and operate the athletic fields. The developers and top city officials gathered at Granite Park in early March to celebrate the restoration of the three baseball/softball fields (replicas of Wrigley Field, Fenway Park and AT&T Park).

A lot of money over the years has been invested and wasted in both halves of Granite Park. Frazier, Cox and City Hall no doubt have a lot of fresh money invested in a new business model for the athletic fields. Beer, wine and especially hard liquor are proven money-makers, and no one should begrudge Frazier for trying to maximize his project’s cash-flow.

At the same time, Frazier’s CUP application is further proof that the old Granite Park concept is dead. The site’s two halves, simply by being side-by-side, will help each other’s bottom line. But competition is now the name of the game.

I once saw Frazier at a city-sponsored event throw a rock through a supposedly unbreakable plastic security window. Make no mistake – Terance Frazier relishes competition.

I also sense that planning department staff is thinking long and hard about what to recommend on the CUP application. This issue might make its way to Mayor Lee Brand and the City Council.

As to the District 4 committee’s proposed two-drink limit – that’s as silly as the designated hitter.

George Hostetter
George Hostetter is The Sun’s Fresno Civic contributor – covering the City of Fresno, County of Fresno, and Fresno Council of Governments.

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