The City of Aberdeen will seek a buyer for Leidos Field at Ripken Stadium, home to the Aberdeen IronBirds (Short Season A; NY-Penn League), according to an announcement made on Monday.
Tufton Professional Baseball LLC, the entity that owns the IronBirds, and the city have experienced difficulties in their negotiations over the license agreement for the ballpark. The current deal that runs through December 31 calls for Tufton to manage non-IronBird related events at the ballpark, while keeping revenues and paying the city an annual licence fee, which stands at $95,000 for 2017.
The two sides have been unable to come to terms for a new license agreement, meaning that the arrangement could ultimately revert back to seeing the city manage non-baseball events once the current deal expires. On Monday, Aberdeen mayor Patrick McGrady announced that the city will seek a buyer for Leidos Field at Ripken Stadium after the team’s ownership declined the city’s offer to assume ownership for a $1. More from The Aegis:
The city made the offer, with the full support of the four-member City Council, Oct. 3 following a closed council meeting on how to handle a relationship between Aberdeen and Tufton Professional Baseball LLC, the IronBirds ownership entity, that is becoming more and more fractured.
The offer came with five years free of paying property taxes, a pledge to lobby Harford County officials for the same “temporary tax relief” and another pledge to pay off $2.3 million that the city still owes on debt it took on to build the stadium in 2002, according to a statement McGrady read during Monday’s City Council meeting.
Tufton officials have said they are not interested in owning Ripken Stadium, as only four out of more than 150 minor-league teams around the country own their stadiums.
“We are unable to say for sure that the enhancements offered to Tufton would be the same [for] another party,” McGrady stated. “The intent was for Tutfton to have first rights, but they declined and as repeatedly stated, we feel the status quo is no longer an option.”
Among Tufton’s responsibilities are bookings, as well as day-to-day ballpark maintenance. Meanwhile, the city is responsible for large capital projects and pays about $600,000 annually in debt service. In recent remarks, IronBirds majority owner Cal Ripken, Jr. expressed some of his frustrations in securing a deal with the city. More from The Baltimore Sun:
Rather, the mayor said, he is looking to strike a deal with the Ripkens that would provide the city with a “more equitable’ cost-sharing agreement with the club.
In an interview last week, Ripken expressed frustration with the negotiations. He said the city has not stuck to the ”simple issue” of discussing a license agreement and has instead made a series of additional stadium-related proposals.
Those include charging a proposed 50-cent-per-ticket “facility fee” that would be dedicated to stadium maintenance.
Team management has rejected the new fee.
Under their lease agreement, the IronBirds are playing at Leidos Field at Ripken Stadium on a 20-year term that ends in 2022.