The Aberdeen Shakedown
Say it ain’t so, Cal. Ripping off your hometown? I thought you could do no wrong … besides staying in the league too long and keeping the Orioles from moving on because you wanted to beat some record. That’s not selfish. Neither is bending over your hometown while you make a profit at its expense.
Ripken’s team the Aberdeen IronBirds have sold out every game since they began playing in 2002. They have sponsors out the ass and a successful baseball academy yet the city of Aberdeen hemorrhages money like the Iraqi Treasury.
The Harford County community owes $6.7 million in stadium-related debt, and millions in interest, on a payment schedule stretching to 2022. The city’s stadium fund has posted operating losses that total more than $1 million since 2001, forcing Aberdeen to dip into its treasury.
Admittedly, most of the blame lies with Aberdeen for “negotiating” a moronic deal with Ripken Baseball which saw it give up a majority of the revenue from the venture. City officials thought they could make up the money in other ways but none of them have generated funds. The city has attempted to renegotiate in order to have Ripken Baseball pay more of the costs but talks are at an impasse.
It’s clear that Aberdeen, in its efforts to close the deal, was in over its head and made some terrible decisions such as contributing $4M when its general fund budget was $7.6M.
Most minor-league stadiums are owned by larger jurisdictions that can spread the costs over bigger budgets … Aberdeen’s deal lacked such safeguards, and the city shouldered an additional burden by agreeing to provide land for the academy and an entertainment center.
The deal was negotiated by the previous administration which of course has defended it. Current mayor S. Fred Simmons expressed concerns before he became mayor while on the board that oversees the stadium but the complex was a done deal at that point in 2005.
The whole situation has turned into a fiasco. Ripken has made noises about working out a solution with Aberdeen but so far nothing has changed. One can say that it’s Aberdeen’s fault that they negotiated a crap deal when other municipalities such as Prince Georges and Charles counties made sure there were safeguards in their stadium deals to spread the pain. However it does seem strange that Ripken with his strong ties to the community wouldn’t be willing to share more of the burden. Ripken Baseball is a business and shouldn’t be a charity but if the venture is sucking the city dry, it should find a way to find a more equitable way to spread the pain while still making a profit.
Like this post? Subscribe to my RSS feed and get loads more!