Craig Delasin (center), CEO of Urban Retail Properties, explains as Patrick Henderson (left), CEO of Atlanta Sports Connection, and Zeric Foster, COO of Atlanta Sports Connection, stand next him during a press conference on May 17, 2017. Developers and tourism officials revealed plans for medical facilities and retail at Atlanta Sports City. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Atlanta Sports City partners face lawsuit over consultant’s unpaid work

Two years have passed since the partners behind the Atlanta Sports City complex unveiled their plans for dozens of athletic fields, a stadium and a sports medicine center at the Mall at Stonecrest.

Delays and missed deadlines have led to questions about whether the project will ever materialize. And now, there is a lawsuit filed by a woman who says she was hired as a consultant but never paid.

LaKeysa “Keya” Grant said Atlanta Sports City partners owe her thousands of dollars for the time she put in as the project’s chief diversity officer from November 2017 through March 2018. Grant’s lawsuit also alleges that she is owed thousands more after a private investor she secured for the project later asked for that money to be transferred to her.

She sued Atlanta Sport City’s partners in DeKalb State Court last month on charges of breach of contract and fraud. In text messages and emails that are now exhibits in the case, project co-founder Patrick Henderson tells her that money is on the way.

“It was kick-the-can tactics,” Grant said.

Related | Questions raised about status of Stonecrest’s Atlanta Sports City

She sent numerous invoices but never received payment. An attorney sent a demand letter in January 2019, and Grant tried to negotiate a settlement privately. When that failed, she hired attorney Eddie Key and filed the April lawsuit.

Henderson said Grant submitted a proposal to him, but they never executed a formal agreement that would have solidified her role on the project. He assumed she was volunteering her time but later agreed to pay as a sign of goodwill, he said.

Money issues with the project have prevented that from happening, Henderson said. He and other partners are still working on securing financing for Atlanta Sports City, which has evolved over the years from a sports-focused facility to a mall redevelopment with sports tie-ins.

“We’ve had some delays in terms of our funding that we will be flushing out,” Henderson said.

Related | Stadium and many sports fields planned near Stonecrest Mall

Grant’s lawsuit names Henderson as a defendant, as well as his company Atlanta Sports Connection, which initially owned Atlanta Sports City. She also named as defendants APD Solutions, a development company, Brasfield & Gorrie contracting firm and Emory Healthcare. All have been identified as Atlanta Sports City partners.

APD Solutions owner Vaughn Irons has become the public face of Atlanta Sports City, and an entity called Stonecrest Resorts is now identified as its parent company.

Henderson said he and partner Zeric Foster are working on Atlanta Sports City but in a reduce role focused on coordinating sports tournaments.

“The project is now combined with the mall and the original principals – Atlanta Sports Connection are no longer principals and, therefore, are no longer in a leadership role,” Tee Foxx, Irons’ spokeswoman, wrote in an email.

Foxx said that the issues Grant raises in her lawsuit are with Atlanta Sports Connection, not Atlanta Sports City.

Since Grant filed her lawsuit, her attorney has heard from others who also said they were never paid for work done on Atlanta Sports City and the case could expand to include them. 

“I just feel that it was one of those situations that had good intentions,” Key said, “that just ended up being mismanaged and potentially went beyond gross negligence to possible fraud.”

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