By Amanda Yeager | Baltimore Business Journal
The city of Aberdeen, Md., and the owner of the Aberdeen IronBirds are poised to put an end to a long-running dispute regarding upkeep at Ripken Stadium.
The city and Tufton Professional Baseball LLC — owned by Hall of Famer and Aberdeen native Cal Ripken Jr. and his brother Bill Ripken — have signed on to a memorandum of understanding that lays out a plan for short-term improvements at the ballpark and enlists the Maryland Stadium Authority to outline capital and maintenance plans governing the stadium’s care moving forward.
The MOU, dated Nov. 4, is described as “a precondition to the effectiveness of a settlement agreement between Aberdeen and Tufton.” Ripken’s company filed a lawsuit against the city in October 2018 alleging Aberdeen had not met its maintenance obligations under a 2000 concession agreement.
As part of the MOU, the Maryland Stadium Authority will reimburse Tufton and the city for capital improvements at Ripken Stadium using grant money allocated by the Maryland General Assembly this legislative session. State lawmakers approved a $300,000 grant this spring for upgrades to the ballpark and pre-authorized another $700,000 grant to be disbursed in fiscal 2021.
High-priority capital projects, according to the agreement, include installation of field netting, replacement of the ballpark’s turf and infield dirt, switching out existing lighting for energy-efficient LED lights and addressing problems with birds nesting in the stadium.
Tufton already paid $18,820 to install field netting before the start of the 2019 baseball season and can apply to the stadium authority for reimbursement under the MOU.
The agreement also asks the stadium authority to oversee a facility assessment analyzing the current and projected condition of the stadium and its systems. That report, in turn, will help shape capital and ordinary maintenance plans.
The capital plan will look at needs for the next decade, and the maintenance plan will delineate upkeep responsibilities for the next five years. The MOU requires Tufton and Aberdeen to review both plans every five years and make changes as necessary.
The agreement also orders the city and baseball company to meet on at least a quarterly basis and more frequently during the baseball season.
The stadium authority’s board of directors voted Nov. 12 to approve the MOU. The agreement makes clear that the authority will not be required to spend any of its own funds under the deal.
Photo Credit: Kelley Dentry/Aberdeen IronBirds