IronBirds playoff run

IronBirds playoff run (MATT BUTTON RECORD STAFF, Patuxent Homestead / June 16, 2013)

A $450,000 grant for the City of Aberdeen to use for renovations to the Ripken Stadium parking lot was approved Wednesday by the Maryland Board of Public Works.

The grant will be used to coat the stadium's parking lot which hasn't had any major work done to it since the stadium was built nearly 12 years ago, Aberdeen Mayor Michael E. Bennett said.

"The original coating on the parking lot has held up this long, but it needs this final coat on it," Bennett said in an interview prior to Wednesday's Board of Public Works meeting.

During the 2013 Maryland General Assembly, Harford Del. Mary-Dulany James backed legislation to allocate state capital improvement funds for the design, construction, renovation and capital equipping of improvements to Ripken Stadium.

The legislation, however, incorrectly provided the grant to the Harford County Executive and County Council, not the City of Aberdeen.

Ripken Stadium is home of the Aberdeen IronBirds.

James said she was approached by Aberdeen officials asking for help with capital improvements to the stadium.

"They asked for relief so they don't have to raise taxes or pull out of another fund," James said before the BPW meeting.

Ripken Stadium is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Aberdeen and regionally, James said.

"The stadium is a big economic engine that provides money throughout the county," James said. "It's not fair that Aberdeen only foots the bill with that."

Bennett said Ripken Stadium helps bind the community together and is a source of pride.

"It really brings the community together," Bennett said. "The Yard Birds really bring people out."

According to Bennett, it is often difficult to leverage funds for the renovations and upkeep of the stadium. He said since Harford County does not have a hotel tax, although Aberdeen has the majority of the county's hotels, he cannot leverage taxes through tourism to allocate for Ripken Stadium.

"This would allow me to take the burden of the stadium off of the taxpayers," Bennett said.

The Aberdeen City Council approved the renovation project contract for Daisy Construction, Doug Miller, Aberdeen City Manager, said. He said the company has a two-week window between March 24 and April 4 to finish the work.

According to Bennett, there are several other stadium renovation projects in the works. He said the city will work to secure funds to replace the padding on the outfield fencing.