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Aberdeen approves bid for repair of Ripken Stadium audio system related to settlement agreement

The Aberdeen City Council approved a bid for approximately $83,000 Monday night to pay for repairs to Ripken Stadium’s speaker system as part of the settlement the city negotiated with the company that owns the local minor league baseball team.

The council voted 4-0 to approve the bid. Councilwoman Sandra Landbeck was not present for the meeting.

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Some of the stadium’s speakers crackle and pop, while others do not work, City Manager Randy Robertson said at Monday’s meeting. All told, the city will have to pay to replace over 20 speakers and other audio equipment including cabling to address dead zones across the stadium.

“The speakers have been a perennial concern they have raised,” Robertson said at the meeting.

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According to the memorandum of understanding negotiated between the city and Tufton Professional Baseball — owner of the minor-league Orioles-affiliate baseball team, the Aberdeen Ironbirds — the city agreed to appropriate $300,000 annually for capital maintenance to the stadium through fiscal year 2022, according to the settlement documents.

After that year, and through fiscal year 2043, the annual deposit would rise to $450,000 if Tufton chooses to renew its 20-year agreement with the city, according to the documents. If renewed, the city could also charge a fee to fund repairs and improvements to the stadium listed in the initial agreement, the documents state.

The city, Robertson said, is fast approaching $300,000 of annual expenditures that it agreed to in the 2019 settlement. That is not a concern, Mayor Patrick McGrady said, because the city can deduct what it spends over the $300,000 threshold from future years’ promised expenditures, ensuring a fixed amount of money is, ultimately, paid for the stadium’s maintenance.

The city originally estimated the speaker repairs would cost $125,000, but System Source in Hunt Valley quoted the fixes at $94,000. When Robertson asked the repair company to “sharpen the pencil" and lower the price, they said they could do the job for approximately $83,000. Two other bidders the city contacted did not provide proposals, according to a memorandum to the city council.

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“It is miserable, but it is property we own,” McGrady said at the meeting.

Repairs will take two to four weeks, Robertson said, and should be complete before the start of the baseball season, which begins for the Ironbirds on June 18 when they play the Hudson Valley Renegades at home. Former Orioles player Cal Ripken Jr. is one of Tufton’s majority owners, as well as an Aberdeen native.

McGrady said the council would make time to publicly explain the settlement no later than May.

Tufton sued Aberdeen in 2018 for breach of a December 2000 contract, and the city followed up with a counter-suit alleging Tufton’s breach of contract in January of 2019. Both sides informally agreed to a postponement of deadlines in November, and a settlement soon followed.

The settlement stipulated that the Maryland Stadium Authority would consult and advise both parties on the stadium’s administration going forward. It will not spend its own funds on the stadium, though, and will be reimbursed.

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