Aberdeen council meets Monday evening to discuss Ripken Stadium's future

The Aberdeen City Council will discuss Monday evening how it might sell or otherwise dispose of the city-owned Ripken Stadium that the mayor and a majority of council members say is a drag on the city’s finances.

The council and Mayor Patrick McGrady have scheduled a special council session to talk about the stadium’s future beginning at 5:30 p.m. in City Hall.

The meeting, which is open to the public, will be for the “methodology to dispose of Aberdeen’s municipal stadium,” according to an announcement from City Hall last week.

McGrady and three of the four council members signed and released a statement last month saying they favor ending city ownership of the 16-year-old Ripken Stadium, pending favorable arrangements being made.

At the last regular council meeting on Oct. 23, the mayor and council voted to hire a Pennsylvania consulting firm to determine the useful life of the stadium, which is home to the Aberdeen IronBirds, a Class A Short Season minor league baseball team affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles.

These moves have come since city officials said they offered to “sell” the stadium to its sole tenant, Tufton Group LLC, which owns the IronBirds, for $1 and provide certain tax advantages, as well as paying off the remaining $2.3 million debt on the facility.

Tufton, owned by Aberdeen natives Cal Ripken Jr. and Bill Ripken, rejected the offer. A spokesperson for Tufton said the organization is not interested in owning the facility but also was not given adequate time to weigh the city’s offer.

McGrady said last Wednesday the city has received some expressions of interest from potential buyers since it made its intentions known.

Speaking with Harford County state senators and delegates, the mayor said: “The City Council is united in our hope of selling the facility.”

McGrady told the legislators interest in buying the stadium has come from property developers interested in land near Interstate 95 and sports venue operators who want to bring another team to Aberdeen.

“The stadium has been a financial burden to the City of Aberdeen since it was constructed,” McGrady said.

He said Ripken Stadium and its 19-acre parking lot costs the city about $1 million a year, including about $580,000 in debt service, which equates to about 7 percent of the city’s annual budget, the mayor said.

That money could instead go to police, road maintenance or a community center, he said.

McGrady also said the city is “on the hook” for all capital repairs costs, which he called “an unlimited liability that we are not willing to continue.”

The stadium generates about $300,000 a year in revenue for the city including ticket sales, taxes and a license fee from revenue Tufton incurs by managing non-baseball events at the stadium, according to McGrady.

He estimated each taxpayer incurs $200 to $300 of the annual cost of running the stadium.

“We have 15,000 people with a median income of $44,000 a year and that hurts,” he said.

Aegis staff member David Anderson contributed to this report.

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