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Aberdeen hires firm to analyze 'useful life' of Ripken Stadium

The City of Aberdeen has hired a Pennsylvania firm to do a condition analysis of Ripken Stadium to determine its “useful liife.”

At their meeting Monday night, the mayor and city council voted unanimously to award a contract for $79,438 to Shahl Sheaffer Engineering, of State College, “to establish and evaluate Ripken Stadium’s current condition, estimate the equipment’s remaining useful life and provide a benchmark for comparing the facility conditions and necessary investment for future years,” according to a city memorandum.

A similar study finished in July 2016 identified $3.2 million in repairs and enhancements needed for the stadium over the next 10 years, the most pressing of which was about $1 million to replace the stadium railings and repair their supporting concrete.

This study is “a little more focused,” Public Works Director Kyle Torster told the mayor and city council.

“We want to identify the long-term viability of the stadium, what future requirements we need to do in the next 15 to 20 years,” Torster said.

The council also passed a budget amendment to the Fiscal Year 2018 budget to pay for the study; a public hearing will be held at the next city council meeting Monday, Nov. 14.

For nearly a year, the city and Ripken Stadium officials — namely Cal Ripken Jr. and Bill Ripken, owners of the Aberdeen IronBirds that play at the stadium — have disagreed over management of the facility.

Aberdeen had hired a venue management group to negotiate with the Ripkens, but the sides could not reach an agreement, after which the city announced that as of Dec. 31, it will revert to a 2002 concession agreement under which the Ripkens get the facility for baseball events only and the city manages the facility and collects rents from any other activities held there, such as parties, concerts or corporate meetings.

According to that arrangement, Tufton (the parent company of the IronBirds) pays the city $95,000 a year — an increase from $60,000 that was being paid before the contract was extended — and has full control of the facility year-round.

Negotiations with Tufton have been amicable, Aberdeen Mayor Patrick McGrady said in July, and everyone is working together to "make this work."

The Ripken brothers, however, have said they are frustrated with the negotiations and that the city has not had any direction.

“It’s been a confusing process for us,” Cal Ripken Jr. said earlier this month. “It’s gone down a path that’s baffling. What does the city want?”

In late August, the Ripkens and Tufton delivered a proposal to the city for a license agreement from 2018 to 2022, under which the team proposes paying 10 percent of all non-baseball event fees to the city in 2018, a $125,000 license fee for 2019, $150,000 in 2020, $175,000 in 2021 and $200,000 in 2022.

The Ripkens had not heard back from the city on the proposal as of earlier this month.

Tufton and the Ripkens have rejected an offer from Aberdeen to buy the stadium for $1.

As it stands, city staff will handle stadium management duties next year while city officials look for another stadium buyer.

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