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Ripken Baseball: Damage control in Augusta

Augusta GreenjacketsProspects for a proposed downtown Augusta GreenJackets (Low Class A; Sally League) ballpark dimmed after accusations that Ripken Baseball caused fiscal issues for Aberdeen, Md. due to the financing of Ripken Stadium.

The issue: a 2007 report from the Baltimore Sun detailing how the Aberdeen IronBirds (short season A; NY-Penn League) sell out every game at Ripken Stadium and reap the financial benefits from the ballpark while the city was dipping in general funds to service debt on the ballpark. The problem: the city had an unrealistic expectations of development at the ballpark site subsidizing debt: things like a hotel and retail/restaurant space didn’t happen after the economy went south. The lease for the ballpark was pretty standard, but the city had unrealistic expectations of future growth.

Flash-forward to today, where opponents of a new GreenJackets ballpark are using the Sun article as an indictment of ta potential new ballpark. Several Ripken Baseball officials, including President and CEO Glenn Til­ley and VP Jeff Eiseman, were in Augusta yesterday to address the concerns, writes Billy Byler in the Augusta Chronicle. Along with them: current Aberdeen Mayor Michael Bennett, who sought to explain that the financial problems were of the city’s doing — a small town bit off more than it could chew.

“We have a great relationship with Ripken Baseball. Ripken Baseball has a great relationship with us,” Bennett said. “Things are moving forward, and I expect them to continue to move forward. I would wholeheartedly endorse and recommend Ripken Baseball to you all. With the amount of new energy and new commitment that they can bring to your community, I think you can’t go wrong.”

We’d say comparing Aberdeen to Augusta is comparing apples to oranges, but it’s really comparing apples to nothing: there’s no firm ballpark proposal on the table in Augusta, so it’s hard to say the city would be stuck with a general fund subsidizing a ballpark. All that’s going on right now is an agreement to negotiate a ballpark deal, and until a site and funding plan is worked out, what happened in Aberdeen is pretty irrelevant to any current ballpark discussions.

RELATED STORIES: Challenge in Augusta: Paying for new ballpark; Eiseman: We’re not tied to Augusta riverfront location; Augusta approves negotiations for new GreenJackets ballparkAugusta ballpark back in play?


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