VERIFY – YOU’VE GOT QUESTIONS, WE’LL FIND ANSWERS
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“I as well as a lot of other customers are extremely frustrated, and we all need some answers,” 9NEWS viewer Maggie Ellis wrote in an email.
So, our Verify team decided to see if they could figure out why the event has been cancelled three times and whether it’s likely to happen at all.
WHAT WE FOUND
We started by contacting The Lights Fest and spoke to Drew Dunn, one of the company’s owners.
He said about half a dozen people, two trucks full of equipment and a truck loaded with portable toilets showed up at the venue, Colorado Motor Sports Park, Friday morning to find the gate locked and a cement barricade in front.
A few, frantic phone calls later, Dunn said his staff learned from the venue’s attorney that the company was in bankruptcy and couldn’t use the venue because it might jeopardize the company’s status in bankruptcy court.
“We got approval Wednesday from the owner. Two days ago,” Dunn said. “That’s how ridiculous this is.”
Dunn accused the sports park’s owner, Donald Hulse, of misleading his team for months about whether the venue had the proper permits to operate.
We called Arapahoe County to figure out what was happening with the permit process and talked to spokeswoman Caitlin Wilson.
She said the sports park was denied a permit to operate back in early May – before the first scheduled date for the lantern festival – and no one had appealed that decision or reapplied since.
“We denied their entire season,” Wilson said.
She didn’t know why the permit was denied, and we were unable to reach anyone from planning and zoning Friday afternoon.
Wilson could say that if the lantern festival had setup, it’s likely the county would have shut it down since the venue wasn’t permitted.
“They have lied to us the entire time,” Dunn said. “We didn’t know they denied the permit.”
We reached out to Colorado Motor Sports Park and Hulse for comment.
Hulse didn’t respond to our requests, but we received an unsigned email from the sports park.
“We are not closing down,” according to the email. “The issue is permits from Arapahoe County.”
That lead our team to Arapahoe County’s website where we found Equity Holdings Group Inc, the company that owns the sports park property.
A quick search of the Secretary of State’s online business registry revealed Hulse is also one of Equity’s owners.
Armed with that information, we then searched online court records and found a bankruptcy filing for Equity Holdings Group from February 2017.
The filings reveal that Equity owes more than $100,000 to HW & LF Clark, the company that holds the sports park’s mortgage.
HW & LF Clark also accused Equity of misleading it from the beginning by promising stock instead of money for a down payment and not paying the property taxes from 2012 to 2015.
“Defendant asserts that the issuance of said stock was the result of fraud and misrepresentations by the debtor in the purchase of the property at issue,” according to online court filings.
The case is still working its way through the bankruptcy court.
Dunn hopes to find another venue for the Light Fest, but he understood if people just wanted a refund given everything that’s happened.
He said he feels frustrated too.
Lights Fest also plans to take legal action against Colorado Motor Sports Park for breach of contract.
The Lights Fest isn’t happening Saturday, and it’s not clear when it will take place since the event’s organizers are searching for another venue.
The company that owns the property for Colorado Motor Sports Park filed for bankruptcy months before the first date for the lantern festival, but the company claims it still plans to try to open the venue.