Kernels File Complaint Over Stadium Repair Issues

By Rick Smith, Reporter

City Council member Justin Shields makes a few notes as he views areas of damage at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids on Thursday March 18, 2010. (Stephen Mally/Freelance)

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By Tracy McCullough

CEDAR RAPIDS — Earlier this month, the city’s Veterans Memorial Commission said it wanted to sit down with the Cedar Rapids Kernels ball club and talk about lease issues related to revenue and repairs at the city’s minor-league ballpark.

In part, the commission suggested that the Kernels, the principal tenant at Veterans Memorial Stadium, was not paying some insurance costs and was turning “gray areas” of the ballpark lease related to naming rights and attendance to the ball club’s financial advantage.

The Kernels now have responded via letter to City Manager Jeff Pomeranz and to the commission with a formal letter of complaint.

The letter from the Kernels’ owner, Cedar Rapids Ball Club Inc., states that city and the Veterans Memorial Commission are in default under the terms of the lease signed by the club, city and commission.

Specifically, the Kernels charge that the city and the commission have not lived up to their “responsibilities” as set out in the lease to bear the cost of structural repairs at the ballpark.

“(We have) for over two years tried to have these issues addressed, but to no avail,” states Gary Keoppel, president of the ballclub, in his letter to the city and commission.

Keoppel notes that the ball club, for now, is choosing to use the complaint provision set out in the lease rather than declaring the city and commission in default of the contract.

He also notes that the club will be meeting with Pomeranz on Nov. 4 to try to get questions about stadium repairs addressed.

In June, the Veterans Memorial Commission did approve a plan to fix two water-related problems at the city’s eight-and-half-year-old ballpark at an estimated cost of $122,000.

However, the commission’s engineering consultant noted that the two water-related problems at the stadium were only two of 20 different maintenance issues identified by the baseball team.

The club has put the total cost of maintenance needs at about $1.6 million over 10 years.

Earlier this month, the Veterans Memorial Commission said it wanted to iron out revenue questions in the lease as part of tackling the expense to make repairs.

Last spring, City Council member Justin Shields called on the council to make sure it keeps up with the stadium’s maintenance.

The ballpark, still considered new by many local residents, cost $16.5 million to build and has debt payments still to be made.

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