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Ripon willing to play ball with outside organization
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The City of Ripon can now look to lease the baseball fields along with the recently completed softball complex at the Mistlin Sports Park to an outside organization.

Staff received that direction at Tuesday’s Ripon City Council meeting.

Recreation Director Kye Stevens, who, along with City Administrator Kevin Werner and Public Works Director Ted Johnston, met several times to talk about the existing baseball fields and the new softball complex on options for maintenance.

“It was determined that since the City has a large investments in the fields, we should keep it in-house,” Stevens said.

As for the baseball/softball operations – included would be tournaments for the six baseball and softball fields – staff recommended leasing to the likes of TPR Baseball or NorCal.

“Both are big names and specialize in these types (of sporting events),” Stevens said.

Council approval was necessary in order for staff to move forward with negotiations.

Stevens said that drawing up of a formal lease agreement is in the works and will be presented to Council at a future meeting for final approval.

Councilman Jake Parks requested that the outside organization hired should help in promoting the downtown Ripon. “Outsiders need to find out that there’s more to Ripon than the Jack Tone Road interchange and Mistlin,” he said.

Mayor Chuck Winn – he was appointed to the post earlier in the meeting – asked about the prospect of available jobs from the outside group?

“We’re thinking somewhere between 20 and 30 (jobs),” Stevens said.

Council recommended that Ripon folks have priority at these positions. City attorney Tom Terpstra noted that this stipulation can be worked into the agreement.

Meanwhile, staff looked at other options on the baseball-softball operations, including the current plan in which the City runs the facility with recreation leagues and programs while renting out the fields on weekends for tournaments.

Another option was to contract the fields to an organization specifically to run the facility and collect a percentage of the revenue generated per year. Stevens said that Sportsplex USA and Big League Dreams, for example, operate this way for typically 5 to 8 percent of the gross revenue generated.

Staff preferred leasing the facility out to an outside organization on a monthly basis. The City would continue to operate soccer along with recreation programs and events while collecting any revenue made from concessions.

The Public Works Department will continue to maintain the fields.

Stevens said of Mistlin: “It’s a sports facility, but it’s also a public park.”

In addition, he suggested that the outside organization be offered a lease agreement of no more than two years. “That way we can track their record and come back with a report to Council,” said Stevens.