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County, Hens agree to terms on ballpark

Lucas County commissioners and some trustees of the Toledo Mud Hens Baseball Club, Inc., yesterday agreed in principle to terms on a lease for the team to occupy a new downtown ballpark.

Commissioners had some concerns about financial oversight of the operation, but Edwin Bergsmark, chairman of the trustees, said that isn't a problem.

He added that everyone agreed that the ultimate goal was to provide a first-class ballpark that can present games at prices affordable for family entertainment.

After the meeting, Sandy Isenberg, president of the county commissioners, said some fine-tuning needs to be done on the agreement, but she added that she is confident it will be signed before the end of January.

The agreement will include a clause calling for the commissioners to have a representative as a voting member of the club's finance committee.

She said attorneys are exploring language potentially leading to an appointment by commissioners to the board of trustees, or the authority to review and approve up to two additional members of the trustees of the ballclub.

The terms of the new lease should not be viewed as questioning the operation of the ball club, Mrs. Isenberg said.

“They've done a good job. But we don't know who's going to be here in 10 years,” she said. “I could still do business on a handshake, but this is a different day and we need a lease arrangement that will last into the future.”

The initial development schedule suggested reaching a lease agreement by July, but bond counsel for the county suggested that selling bonds for the project in the first quarter of this year would likely achieve the best interest rate. A signed lease for the ballpark should improve the marketing of the bonds.

“I think we can take them to New York by the end of the month,” Mrs. Isenberg said.

Jim O'Neal, an assistant county administrator, said the specific amount of the lease has not been determined because of a number of variables. One factor is that it's unknown what interest rate will dictate the cost of redeeming bonds sold for the project, and how much the local debt might decrease after selling naming rights to the park.

During their regular meeting, commissioners approved advertising for bids to do work on the site totaling about $16.7 million.

The largest bid package will cover masonry, mechanical and electrical work, seating, elevators, and some other basic requirements in constructing the building at Monroe, Huron, Washington, and St. Clair streets. The estimate for the work is about $15.5 million.

The other project, estimated to cost nearly $1.2 million will renovate the building at Washington and St. Clair. That building will house, among other things, the team's offices and have a party room overlooking right field with attached outdoor seating for fans.

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