Time running out on license agreement for Ripken Stadium; Aberdeen rejects Ripken offer

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Unless the City of Aberdeen can reach a license agreement in the next few days with someone to manage Ripken Stadium in 2018, the city will assume control over non-baseball events on Jan. 1.

As of Friday, the city was still waiting to hear from its bond counsel about the status of the license agreement and had not come to an agreement with the Tufton Group, the parent company of Ripken Baseball and the Aberdeen IronBirds, the primary tenant at the stadium.

Early Friday morning, the City of Aberdeen rejected Tufton’s offer of 10 percent of revenues collected on non-baseball events, according to John Maroon, a spokesman for Cal and Bill Ripken, who own the team.

“We were told it was not in the city’s best interest,” Maroon said Friday. “But they haven’t provided us any information with how they’re moving forward in January.”

Nor has the city finalized an agreement with Huntley Sports Group to manage non-baseball events.

An agreement with Huntley will not be affected by the recent sudden death of Dave Huntley on Dec. 18, according to Athan Sunderland, executive vice president of Pinkard Properties, a Baltimore commercial realty firm.

The Huntley Sports Group is a partnership among Pinkard Properties in Towson, MFS Advisors in New York and Mr. Huntley.

A lacrosse legend, Mr. Huntley was the namesake behind Huntley Sports Group, which has been negotiating an agreement with the city, Mayor Patrick McGrady confirmed last week.

“Mr. Huntley is irreplaceable, but Huntley Sports Group will serve his legacy and its components are as strong and as productive as ever,” Sunderland said Friday. “Our mission as clear as it’s ever been.”

He said he met with the Aberdeen City Council Dec. 18 to discuss the next steps of the license agreement and discussions and contact with the city will continue on a regular basis.

“We are moving in a positive direction,” Sunderland said.

McGrady said the passing of Mr. Huntley is sad for his family and for the legacy of lacrosse in general.

“He is a legend of the sport and we’re optimistic working with the Huntley Sports Group and the Ripken Famiy and Tufton Professional Baseball we’re going to be able to come up with a solution on the stadium going forward that will make the legacy of Mr. Huntley strong and better,” McGrady said Friday in a phone message, “and we’re looking forward to an amicable resolution on the stadium hopefully attained in 2018.”

The city can’t move forward with any license agreement until it hears from its bond counsel, Lindsay Rader, who is looking into whether the tax-free status of the bonds outstanding in the city are in good standing with the IRS, McGrady said recently.

McGrady said early last week he received an email from Rader that she hoped to have an answer for the city by last week.

If there is no agreement, the city and Tufton will revert to the 2002 license agreement for the stadium, under which the city manages non-baseball events.

Last December, the city extended for one year its lease with Ripken Baseball, until Dec. 31, 2017, during which time it would look at other options for running events outside of baseball.

The city is "absolutely not" in the position to manage the stadium or outside events and has talked to some organizations about potentially taking over that responsibility, Aberdeen City Manager Randy Robertson said last year.

"It postures us to look at professional management of outside activities," Robertson said, adding that the stadium is "really only used a fraction of the year for ball."

In the last year, the city hired SMG Corporation of Conshohocken, Pa., for $40,000 to negotiate with the Tufton Group, but they were unable to reach an agreement.

"We'll pay a consultant to help us put together a deal to help manage the stadium in the future," McGrady said earlier. "This allows the city to pay for a consultant to get the best deal for the city and everybody involved in this. We value our relationship with them."

Under the 2017 renewal agreement, the IronBirds rent was increased from $65,000 to $90,000 for the year.

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