Ripken makes a pitch for the Senators
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
BY GEOFF MORROW
Of The Patriot-News
The list of suitors for the Harrisburg Senators baseball team is down to four. None of the finalists is local, but one is a legend of the game.
Baltimore-based Ripken Baseball Inc. -- led by Orioles Hall of Famer-elect Cal Ripken Jr. -- and three others submitted bids to buy the Washington Nationals' Class AA minor-league franchise before yesterday's 3 p.m. deadline.
Confidentiality agreements prevent the city from divulging names of the bidders, but Ripken Baseball and Ivy Walls Management of Lexington, Ky., confirmed that they made offers to the city. Both cited Harrisburg's location as a main attraction.
City spokesman Randy King said the next step is for Mayor Stephen R. Reed and his advisers to "whittle it down to the top two or three over the next few weeks."
Negotiations with the finalists would take place in March with hopes of reaching a deal by the end of the month, King said. The sale would require the approval of Major League Baseball.
Regardless, the city will own the Senators through the 2007 season, King said, adding that the city hopes to close a deal by October.
Reed decided to sell the Senators last October amid Harrisburg's financial crisis, which has forced the city to borrow millions of dollars, lay off 32 workers and raise property taxes 17 percent.
Most of the proceeds of the sale would go to retire the debt from the city's purchase of the team for $6.7 million in 1996, and to help pay back the city's 2006 $7.2 million budget bailout loan, the mayor said this month.
The Senators' home, Commerce Bank Park, is not for sale.
The competition for the team, with Ripken Baseball and Ivy Walls among the heavy hitters, could mean a higher price tag for the Senators. Reed, who said he would demand that the team stay in Harrisburg for 29 years, said he believes the team could bring as much as $16 million.
At least 20 people and entities expressed interest in buying the ballclub, but none is local, King said.
Ripken Baseball owns and operates two other minor-league teams: the Aberdeen (Md.) IronBirds of the Class A New York-Penn League and the Augusta (Ga.) GreenJackets of the Class A South Atlantic League.
Ripken, who had 3,184 hits and 431 home runs in a 21-year career with the Orioles that was highlighted by his record 2,632 consecutive games played, was elected to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., this month and will be inducted on July 29.
Ripken Baseball spokesman John Maroon confirmed his company's bid yesterday.
"Let's call it like it is," he said. "Our owner sets us apart. Cal Ripken has earned a lot of respect from fans and businesses. And the fact that he knows what he's doing, as he's demonstrated in two places so far, really serves us well."
Ivy Walls Management, run by CEO Bill Shea of Radnor, owns two minor-league teams: the Omaha (Neb.) Royals of the Class AAA Pacific Coast League and the Lexington Legends of the Class A South Atlantic League.
Chief Operating Officer Alan Stein said City Island's unique flavor and Harrisburg's proximity to Shea's hometown were lures.
"We did submit a very, very strong bid [that] the city will be happy to receive," Stein said. "Our company wants to be in the Eastern League, and we love City Island. It can be one of the most picturesque, aesthetically beautiful ballparks in the country."