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Ripken Stadium management says balancing baseball, vaccine clinics and graduations at venue won’t be a problem

After a year of little to no events at Leidos Field at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, the site is about to get busier than ever.

Baseball, likely a COVID-19 mass vaccination clinic and high school graduation ceremonies are all expected to take place there in May. Those in charge, Aberdeen IronBirds General Manager Jack Graham and Jessie Rusher, Events Manager for Ripken Events, couldn’t be happier.

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“Honestly, it sounds like a lot, I will admit,” Rusher said. “Having vaccines in the parking lot, baseball going on and graduations, but in reality our parking lot is large enough that we can host [vaccines] in the parking lot, but also hold something inside the facility.”

At Monday’s Board of Education meeting, Harford County Public Schools announced they had signed a contract to have outdoor graduation ceremonies at the stadium in late May.

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On Tuesday, Gov. Larry Hogan said a mass vaccination clinic would be opening in Harford County by the end of April. While the governor didn’t specify a location, County Executive Barry Glassman said state and federal officials had toured Ripken Stadium’s facilities over the weekend as a possible mass vaccination site and the only other location being considered, a vacant Mars supermarket in Edgewood, likely did not have enough parking to facilitate a large-scale regional clinic.

So while it’s still not certain that Ripken Stadium will be a vaccine distribution site, Graham said there won’t be any issues if it is.

“What we’ve been told is, based on the success the National Guard has had throughout Maryland and across the country with drive-through vaccine distribution locations, we’re expecting it to be outside the stadium and that no people will come inside the building,” he said. “We’ve got a parking lot with a ton of space — 300,000 square feet — we’re not worried about being able to have the vaccine clinic during the day and baseball games at night.”

Ripken Stadium officials say the 300,000-square-foot parking lot would allow plenty of space to host a drive-through COVID-19 mass vaccination clinic while also being able to have spectators attending baseball games inside this spring and summer.
Ripken Stadium officials say the 300,000-square-foot parking lot would allow plenty of space to host a drive-through COVID-19 mass vaccination clinic while also being able to have spectators attending baseball games inside this spring and summer. (Matt Button / The Aegis/Baltimore Sun Media)

Regardless of the location, Glassman said he expects the vaccine clinic to be a roughly three- to four-month operation, wrapping up in July or August.

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Graham said the amount of activity taking place at the stadium would be a welcome change.

“Ultimately, over the last five or 10 years, we have not had enough programming, it’s been mostly baseball and a handful of other events,” Graham said.

“Realistically, we’ve had the bandwidth to support more events, more usage, more opportunities here at the stadium for a while,” he said. “Being able to serve a public purpose with the graduations and the potential for vaccine distribution site, those are things that we want to get involved in, but we are glad that people think of us, because ultimately, if we‘re playing 50 or 60 or 70 home games in a season, we’ve got to do something the other 300 days a year.”

IronBirds baseball begins its season May 4, but doesn’t host its first games at the stadium until May 18. The ‘Birds will host Wilmington in a six-game series that ends May 23. The team then goes back out on the road, leaving the stadium open for graduations May 24-27 with a rain date of May 28.

“We’re excited about being able to do that, because with the governor, the State of Maryland and Major League Baseball requiring pod seating, our stadium will already be completely set up and prepared for individual families to come in and sit as a group, but without being within 6 feet of other families,” Graham said.

Stadium seating is being set up in two to six person pods and seats around those, in a six foot radius, are being zip tied shut.

“No two families can encroach on each other’s personal space,” Graham said.

As the stadium’s events manager, Rushing said it’s great to have so many things happening at the venue.

“OK, we’ve got this going in the parking lot, this in the facility,” she said. “So, I really love, honestly, all of that and managing it.”

Aegis editor S. Wayne Carter contributed to this article.

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