Ripken firm sues city over stadium
Tufton baseball claims Aberdeen breached contract on minor-league ballpark
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.