Atlanta’s tennis contract to be rebid again

Raian Luchici, 35, Director of Tennis at Bitsy Grant Tennis Center, gives lessons to a young tennis player at the center in Atlanta, Ga., on Friday, June 28, 2019. (Casey Sykes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Raian Luchici, 35, Director of Tennis at Bitsy Grant Tennis Center, gives lessons to a young tennis player at the center in Atlanta, Ga., on Friday, June 28, 2019. (Casey Sykes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Casey Sykes

Credit: Casey Sykes

The Atlanta City Council was poised Tuesday to end a two-and-a-half year battle over who will manage the city’s five tennis facilities, but for the third time killed the contract over apparent concerns about a potentially tainted procurement process.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms procurement department had recommended awarding the contract to a new company, Agape Tennis Academy. But the firm that previously managed the facilities for the past decade, Universal Tennis Management, filed a formal protest alleging improprieties in Agape’s bid last month.

The contract was on the Atlanta City Council’s Monday meeting agenda, but a vote on the matter was delayed by nine hours of public comment ― the majority from supporters of the two firms vying for the contract.

On Tuesday, after meeting in executive session with the law department for roughly an hour, the council voted unanimously to rebid the contract.

Amir R. Farokhi, a co-sponsor of the legislation awarding the contract to Agape, acknowledged it was an embarrassing moment for the city, but said concerns raised during the discussion with the law department had caused him to support starting over.

He said the council had no role in scoring the bids and that in the meantime the parks department had inadequately managed the facilities.

“All that goes to say is that we just had an executive session, during which time I think we all learned information that makes it clear that a new (request for proposals) is the best path going forward at this point,” he said.

Universal and Agape have been the only two companies competing for the nine-year contract worth $25 million. Both companies where initially disqualified during the first round for not meeting local hiring requirements.

Agape won the second bid, but a groundswell of public support to keep Universal prompted the city to rebid the contract last year.

Agape again won that bid.

But an attorney for Universal argued in a letter dated Nov. 30 that Agape’s bid misrepresented the amount of capital improvements that it would provide to the city by $150,000, and grossly inflated the amount of revenue it would share with the city.

“The City could not have reasonably determined (Agape) was a responsive and responsible offeror when its proposal contained false and misleading material facts,” wrote lawyer Cary Ichter, of Ichter Davis LLC.

Agape Owner and CEO Amy Pazahanick said the discrepancies in the figures resulted from normal negotiations with the city that take place once a vendor has been selected, and that Universal was not privy to those talks.

“Everything has been done 100% properly,” Pazahanick told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Pazahanick said Agape had also agreed to take on additional expenses that the city normally incurs.

Atlanta has one of the country’s most vibrant tennis scenes and the Atlanta City Council has listened to dozens of hours of public comment in support of both companies over the past year.

In September, the council voted to shelve the contract, also making the city vulnerable to a court challenge from Agape.

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