With Cooch in Pursuit, SportsQuest Partners Split 

After state files lawsuit, some key partners jump ship.

click to enlarge Steve Burton, chief executive of SportsQuest, says the company is being split into three business units, all of which will be sold. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • Steve Burton, chief executive of SportsQuest, says the company is being split into three business units, all of which will be sold.

Under the weight of a state lawsuit, SportsQuest is taking a dive.

Just days after Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli filed a lawsuit against the sprawling, Olympic-themed sports training complex in western Chesterfield County, at least two key partners are pulling out of the company.

Dudley Duncan, the founding visionary of SportsQuest who reportedly invested more than $200,000, resigned from the board of directors late last week. And an early SportsQuest partner, the Richmond Indoor Sports Experience, known as RISE, voided its business arrangement with the company.

Duncan, who was spearheading the planned Olympic aquatics facility, says that last week’s lawsuit exposed some serious problems. “Everything’s in question,” Duncan says, adding he couldn’t get answers about the company’s future from Steve Burton, chief executive of SportsQuest. “I don’t know what the truth is,” Duncan says. “I just don’t have any confidence.”

Duncan says he was one of three remaining members of the board, including Burton. Burton declines to comment, referring to a statement he released online, which says the company is being split into three separate business units, all of which are in the process of being sold. He doesn’t provide details.

“There’s not an update that I’ll give right now,” Burton says.

RISE just didn’t want to get dragged through the state lawsuit. Its director, Christopher Robinson, says the company owners originally agreed to sell the business to SportsQuest, but the legal paperwork wasn’t finalized.

“It just wasn’t going to work out,” Robinson says. “We just couldn’t keep the partnership going because it wasn’t benefiting RISE, especially with the new legal issues coming out.” Its training facility, which sits next to SportsQuest’s performance facility off Genito Road, has about 3,000 members.

The state’s lawsuit may have exposed serious financial troubles at SportsQuest, which has struggled to pay its contractors, employees and other vendors for the last year and a half. The state’s suit targets the company for improper marketing -- namely, that it sold 725 memberships without properly listing an opening date for the new facility -- and seeks reimbursement for the paying members.

It’s unclear where that leaves SportsQuest’s biggest known investors -- Chesterfield County taxpayers. In July 2010 the county agreed to pay SportsQuest $4.3 million to lease 17 outdoor fields for 20 years, along with a yet-to-be-constructed senior center and gymnasium. The county was to begin using those facilities in January, according to the agreement.

Mike Golden, director of parks and recreation for the county, says he’s been in talks with SportsQuest officials and feels confident everything will be worked out. “I think our lease would hold under any situation, under any ownership,” he says. “A new owner would have to honor the lease.”

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