Financing Classic Park was a huge financial burden for Eastlake, Ohio, but after a rocky start things are going well in the relationship between the city and the Lake County Captains (Low A; Midwest League).
Flash back to 2003, when Classic Park opened. Eastlake had plowed ahead with the ballpark construction without a firm financing plan for the $35-million facility, and after attempts by then-Mayor Dan DiLiberto to address the situation failed, the city was on the hook for the entire amount. Former mayor Ted Andrzejewski treated the ballpark and the Captains as nuisances, and as a result it was at best a strained relationship between the team and the city, as Andrzejewski fought all attempts by the Captains to access a Capital Replacement and Improvement Fund (CRIF) fund, generated by a ticket tax. Andrzejewski lost a reelection bid in November 2013, and new Mayor Dennis Morley sought to repair the city’s relationship with the Captains. From the News-Herald:
“It’s different with me,” Morley said. “I’ve been at the stadium. I’ve seen the infrastructure. I know the needs. I think of it the same way I do of my home. It’s the city’s responsibility to take care of the stadium.”
Captains vice president and general manager Brad Seymour agreed with Morley’s characterization of the relationship between the ballpark’s landlord and principal tenant.
“The lines of communication have never been better,” Seymour said. “The city has done an incredible job taking care of things that didn’t get taken care of for years. You need to maintain the ballpark.”
It was a long time coming, to be sure. But now the team is working to bring new, non-baseball events to the ballpark. But it’s in everyone’s best interests to have the ballpark work: the city is on the hook for an annual $1.3 million payment on bonds through 2031.