Rip­ken firm sues city over sta­dium

Tufton base­ball claims Aberdeen breached con­tract on mi­nor-league ball­park

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND - By Erika But­ler ebut­ler@theaegis.com

The sports man­age­ment com­pany owned by Cal Rip­ken Jr. and his fam­ily has filed a law­suit against the City of Aberdeen, claim­ing of­fi­cials have made oper­at­ing Rip­ken Sta­dium “un­bear­ably dif­fi­cult” and have not lived up to the terms of a con­tract agreed to nearly 20 years ago.

Tufton Pro­fes­sional Base­ball LLC, owned by Bal­ti­more Ori­oles great and Aberdeen na­tive Rip­ken and his fam­ily, filed the com­plaint Wed­nes­day in Har­ford County Cir­cuit Court.

Rip­ken is pres­i­dent and CEO of the com­pany, which owns the Aberdeen Iron­birds mi­nor league team that plays at Lei­dos Field at Rip­ken Sta­dium.

Rip­ken had given the city un­til Tues­day to re­spond to a let­ter he sent last week con­tend­ing Tufton should take over man­age­ment of non-base­ball events at the sta­dium be­cause Aberdeen had not ful­filled its obli­ga­tions to up­grade the city­owned ball­park.

A 2016 con­sul­tant's study iden­ti­fied some 50 projects the sta­dium needs over 10 years, cost­ing about $3.2 mil­lion. The largest project — a $1 mil­lion re­place­ment of rail­ings — has been com­pleted, but the list of im­prove­ments in­cludes other safety up­grades and gen­eral re­pairs.

The law­suit re­it­er­ates the claim about over­due cap­i­tal projects, and also con­tends that the city has re­couped its ini­tial in­vest­ment in the sta­dium project. Once the city re­couped that in­vest­ment, the law­suit says, man­age­ment of the ma­jor­ity of base­ball and non-base­ball events at the sta­dium should fall to Tufton, based on their orig­i­nal agree­ment in De­cem­ber 2000.

Tufton pre­vi­ously ran such events, but ear­lier this year the city named a new ven­dor to op­er­ate non-base­ball events at the sta­dium.

The suit also states that Aberdeen Mayor Pa­trick McGrady and the Aberdeen City Coun­cil have been dif­fi­cult to work with in re­cent years. The ear­lier let­ter from Rip­ken stated that ef­forts to me­di­ate dis­putes "failed to pro­duce any res­o­lu­tion."

“We are now com­pelled to ask the courts to step in,” said John Ma­roon, a spokesman for Tufton and the Rip­kens, in a state­ment re­gard­ing the law­suit. “It is re­gret­table that af­ter months of ne­go­ti­a­tions con­cern­ing the city’s obli­ga­tions un­der our agree­ment, the city has failed to meet those obli­ga­tions... Con­tracts are meant to be hon­ored. Tufton has done its part. The city needs to do the same.”

The mayor and City Coun­cil mem­bers met in closed ses­sion Mon­day af­ter the coun­cil’s reg­u­lar meet­ing, but McGrady did not dis­close the sub­ject of the meet­ing.

On Wed­nes­day, McGrady said, “The city and Tufton con­tinue to be in dis­cus­sion about the de­mands they made in the let­ter.” City of­fi­cials did not com­ment Thurs­day. Rip­ken Sta­dium opened in 2002. The Iron­Birds team has a 20-year lease at the sta­dium that ends in 2022. Tufton says the orig­i­nal agree­ment gives the com­pany an op­tion to ex­tend that lease an­other 20 years.

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