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August 29, 2011

Grove Stadium Issues Debated

Michael Kurtianyk

One of the great joys about being active in local politics is meeting with local elected leaders to discuss issues. Much has been made in recent weeks about issues specific to Frederick City.


After spending four hours talking to Aldermen Karen Young and Shelley Aloi, it is easy to see that, if nothing else, the city leaders are listening to its constituents.


One of the topics we discussed was the issue of naming rights for Harry Grove Stadium, the home currently of the Frederick Keys baseball organization. We live in tough economic times, so revenue sources from anywhere should be actively pursued. Should The City of Frederick sell the naming rights of Harry Grove Stadium like was done in Baltimore with both Oriole Park at Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Baltimore Ravens, to an entity?


First, some perspective. In 1988, M.J. Grove, son of Harry Grove, gave Frederick $250,000 to help finance the building of the stadium, which at the time cost about $3 million. Back then, State Sen. Ron Young was mayor, and he suggested that the new stadium be named for the person who ponied up some money. The Grove family agreed, wanting to honor Harry Grove, who, as it turns out, was one of the founders of the Frederick Hustlers, a semi-professional baseball team that existed early in the 20th century.


Recently citizens from all over the place sent emails to the mayor and aldermen, called in to WFMD’s Frederick’s Forum, and posted online their concerns about this resurfacing proposal. The resounding response was, essentially: “Hell no!”


While many applauded the local leaders for discussing it, citizens did suggest an alternative: sell the naming rights to the field itself. Think about it: the Keys could play on (Insert Corporation Here) Field, at Harry Grove Stadium. It could work.


Then there are the discussions about the lease negotiations. A Request for Proposal (RFP) process began earlier this year since the lease agreement between the Keys and Frederick City expires October 1. Two proposals were submitted: one by the Keys, and one by the Atlantic League. A super-secret selection committee, whose members, to date, have yet to be revealed, chose the Keys’ proposal over the one submitted by the Atlantic League by a score of 89.8 to 80.35 through the evaluation process which included 10 categories. The categories were as follows:


·        Annual lease rate;

·        Grounds maintenance commitment;

·        Capital expense contributions;

·        Community commitment;

·        Financial stability of the organization;

·        Facility availability and non-game day usage;

·        Fan base potential;

·        How the organization fits the market;

·        Major league player-generating potential; and

·        Sustainable environmental initiatives at the stadium.


Details began emerging that the selection committee placed a great deal of weight on the fact that the Keys are the Keys – that they’re part of the Baltimore Orioles organization. This sentiment outweighed the possibility that the Atlantic League’s proposal is better financially for Frederick City (and its taxpayers). So, Mayor Randy McClement moved forward with the proposal preferred by the selection committee.


Negotiations began with the Keys organization and a final lease agreement has yet to be presented to the aldermen. According to the city’s charter, the aldermen cannot participate in negotiations such as these; they can only approve (or disapprove) the contract when it’s submitted.


One of the issues being discussed with the Keys is parking. It looks like there are negotiations about charging to park at the stadium. The options are that either there is no charge to park, which is what we have now, or that after the first $125,000 collected annually, the revenue would be split 50-50 between the Keys and the City of Frederick. If the aldermen continue to listen to their constituents, then the lease agreement will include no charges for parking.


Everyone will have to stay tuned on this.


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