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Aberdeen mayor hopeful of city response to Ripken demands by deadline

Contact Reporterdaanderson@baltsun.com

Aberdeen Mayor Patrick McGrady hopes the city will have a response today to the Aberdeen IronBirds owners’ demand the city hold up its end of the 2000 concession agreement between the parties.

Tufton Professional Baseball LLC, the business entity that owns the minor league Baltimore Orioles affiliate, seeks a response to demands stated in its Oct. 3 letter to the city by “the close of business” Tuesday, or face legal action. The letter was signed by Cal Ripken Jr., president and CEO of Tufton.

“We hope to be able to have a response by tomorrow,” McGrady said Monday night.

Ripken, a former Orioles star and Major League Baseball Hall of Famer, and his brother, Bill, also a former Oriole, are the majority owners of the team that they worked to bring to their hometown of Aberdeen. The IronBirds play at Leidos Field at Ripken Stadium. The city-owned stadium opened in 2002; Tufton, the sole stadium tenant, has a lease that extends through 2022.

There have been multiple discussions and attempts at mediation between the city and Tufton, but relations continue to be strained.

City leaders have worked to keep discussions between the parties, “out of the public’s eye, and we will continue to attempt this as long as it is practicable,” McGrady said.

“As always, I and the council are optimistic about the future,” the mayor said.

Ripken demanded that the city honor its obligations as stated in the original concession agreement between Tufton and Aberdeen.

He wrote that the city must “honor its obligations to undertake capital improvements, major maintenance, and replacements to Leidos Field at Ripken Stadium, (2) recognize that the City has been deemed to have recouped its 2000 investment in the Stadium (which recoupment shifts the right to hold most non-baseball Events at the Stadium to Tufton), and (3) confirm Tufton’s unilateral right to renew the Concession Agreement into the 2023-2042 Renewal Term.”

The mayor and City Council had spent more than 90 minutes meeting with City Attorney Frederick Sussman in closed session, following the adjournment of the regular council meeting earlier Monday evening. The reasons for going into closed session, which the mayor and council approved unanimously, were to “consult with council to obtain legal advice” and to “consult with staff, consultants or other individuals about pending or potential litigation.”

McGrady declined to say whether the discussion was related to the demands in Ripken’s letter, citing regulations governing closed sessions.

Relations between Tufton and the city have been strained for at least a year over issues such as which party is responsible for expensive, yet necessary, stadium repairs and overall maintenance, and whether Tufton or the city should handle management of non-baseball events at the stadium.

The city currently has an agreement with the Huntley Sports Group, of Towson, to manage non-baseball events. Aberdeen officials have also explored selling the stadium.

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