Under the terms of a ground lease between Mobile and the ballpark’s land owner, Hank Aaron Stadium might need to be demolished if it is unused in the years after the Mobile BayBears (Class AA; Southern League) relocate.
The BayBears are planning to spend one more season at Hank Aaron Stadium before relocating to a new ballpark in Madison, AL for 2020 and beyond. Hank Aaron Stadium itself is owned by the City of Mobile, but it sits on land that is privately owned by McGowin Properties. According to a 1996 ground lease between the city and the landowner, McGowin may terminate the lease if the venue ceases to be home for Double-A baseball and is not used by the city “thereafter for public events generally for a continuous period of not less than two years. ” The city would then be required to demolish and remove the ballpark at its expense.
While that clause could put pressure on the city to make a decision on Hank Aaron Stadium’s post-BayBears future, it does not absolutely guarantee that the ballpark will be demolished. It might be possible that the facility remains standing for non-professional-baseball events after 2019, something that the city will have to explore as it prepares for the BayBears’ departure. More from WKRG.com:
News 5 has been looking at the contract the city signed with the landowner when the stadium was built 22 years ago. It reads: “In the event that the use of the Leased Premises as a AA baseball stadium is discontinued and should the City cease to use the Leased Premises thereafter for public events generally for a continuous period of not less than two years, the Landlord may, at its option, terminate this Lease and require the City to demolish and remove the stadium at the City’s expense…”
McGowin Properties owns the land where Hank Aaron Stadium sits, and the surrounding land – the ever-expanding, McGowin Park Shopping Complex.
“I don’t know if they’re really pushing that hard, but that is how it’s written if they chose to take it back,” said Mayor Sandy Stimpson. “So, we have a two-year window to see what we can put in there.”…
Stimpson says the contract term “public events generally” is pretty loosely defined. He says having Mobile’s semi-pro soccer, AFC Mobile, play there, or having high school sporting events there, might be enough to keep the stadium from basically being repossessed and destroyed.
Earlier this year, BayBears owner BallCorps, LLC finalized the club’s upcoming move to the new Madison ballpark, which will be constructed in the Town Madison development. Once it arrives in Madison, the franchise will rebrand as the Rocket City Trash Pandas.
Hank Aaron Stadium first opened in 1997. It is currently the oldest active ballpark in the Southern League.
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