MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — The Mobile BayBears will leave the city after next season for the Huntsville area, and two years after that, Hank Aaron Stadium could come down!
News 5 has been looking at the contract the city signed with the landowner when the stadium was built 22 years ago. It reads: “In the event that the use of the Leased Premises as a AA baseball stadium is discontinued and should the City cease to use the Leased Premises thereafter for public events generally for a continuous period of not less than two years, the Landlord may, at its option, terminate this Lease and require the City to demolish and remove the stadium at the City’s expense…”
McGowin Properties owns the land where Hank Aaron Stadium sits, and the surrounding land – the ever-expanding, McGowin Park Shopping Complex.
“I don’t know if they’re really pushing that hard, but that is how it’s written if they chose to take it back,” said Mayor Sandy Stimpson. “So, we have a two-year window to see what we can put in there.”
The stipulation in the contract has caught some at Government Plaza off guard.
“Ok, first, let’s realize, nobody knew about that old contract,” said Councilman John Williams. Had the city known about the clause, Williams said, it might have made a bigger effort to keep the Baybears, despite sagging attendance. Williams says the City has no chance of attracting another affiliated minor league club.
“Everybody’s trying to buy a team,” Williams said. “And I’m not sure Mobile, Alabama is in the market to buy a team, at this time. So let’s put that to rest. So if the landlord doesn’t want to renegotiate that, and wants his land back, then we have no other choice.”
Mayor Sandy Stimpson says he’s not sure the landowner has an interest in removing the stadium, and he hopes it doesn’t come to that.
“I think they’re amenable to it if we have something we want to put in there that is a viable alternative, that they’ll go along with it,” he said. “We’ve taken a look at some minor league teams that are not affiliated, but the track record on those is not sterling. So we want to be cautious on that if that’s the way we want to go.”
Stimpson says the contract term “public events generally” is pretty loosely defined. He says having Mobile’s semi-pro soccer, AFC Mobile, play there, or having high school sporting events there, might be enough to keep the stadium from basically being repossessed and destroyed.
Hank Aaron Stadium opened in 1997 as the home of the BayBears. The team was sold earlier this year and announced it will relocate to Madison, Alabama for the 2020 season.