Competing offers for the use of Hank Aaron Stadium will force the Mobile City Council to decide the future of professional baseball at the facility as early as next week.
Members of the council voted to delay a decision on a sublease agreement for use of the stadium from a group including former BayBears employees, as a new suitor has emerged.
Mobile Sports and Entertainment Group (MSEG) has asked the city for permission to take over the lease from former BayBears owner BallCorps and has plans to open the stadium for high school baseball tournaments, college games and other events like concerts. The group, per the agreement, plans to take over utility and maintenance payments, while continuing to pay the same amount in rent.
Former BayBears’ Assistant General Manager Ari Rosenbaum, president of MSEG, previously told councilors the group had purchased the popular Halloween and Christmas light shows that take place in the stadium’s parking lot each year.
When it votes, the council will be forced to decide between the MSEG proposal and a proposal from a new group, led by Minor League Baseball team owner Tim Bennett. Former U.S. Attorney Kenyen Brown, who is representing the group, told councilors Bennett’s group would be able to field an Atlantic League team at Hank Aaron Stadium by the summer of 2021.
The Atlantic League, which fields eight teams from the East Coast to Texas, currently has a league-owned travel team without a home city. That team would move to Mobile as part of the plan to buy out the current lease agreement with BallCorps, Brown said.
Bennett’s group would pay $100,000 per year in rent, Brown said, and would pay the city 20 percent of the outfield wall advertising sales up to $100,000. The group would also put 20 percent of a $2 surcharge on tickets toward capital improvements for the stadium. The city would be expected to pay for maintenance and utilities at the stadium, Brown said.
Brown attacked the MSEG proposal, saying it’s written into the contract the group would set aside the rent money paid to the city for demolition of the stadium.
While Rosenbaum confirmed that language is in the contract, he said it was put in the agreement as a contingency plan, should his group cease operations. It is in response to a land-use agreement with the owners of the property where the stadium sits. If the stadium stays dormant for two years, it can be torn down.
Rosenbaum and his group have those landlords, the Little family, on board with the MSEG plan. Brown said the other plan includes professional baseball equivalent to Double A, which is a part of the land-use agreement.
Both groups plan to have the blessing of Mobile native and Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.
Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s administration will continue to review both proposals, with the goal of keeping the stadium viable, city spokesman George Talbot said.
“We have a valid proposal, which was on the agenda today,” he said. “We have met with the other group. There is new information we need to look at.”
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