City of Springfield plans to purchase Hammons Field from JQH Trust

The Springfield Cardinals home is changing hands.

At a press conference Wednesday, the city of Springfield announced the plan to buy Hammons Field, a downtown ballpark that has been home to the Double-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals since 2005.

The city’s $12 million purchase agreement, which also includes several nearby parking lots, is pending approval by the city council, which will vote on Feb. 6.

If approved, the taxpayer-funded purchase would be paid for with unrestricted savings from the city’s general fund and monies earmarked for “Economic Vitality” from the Level Property Tax Fund.

The fate of the 8,000-seat facility has been in question since John Q. Hammons’ Revocable Trust filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2016.

In 2020 — seven years after the death of hotelier Hammons — Springfield Cardinals LLC filed a lawsuit in Greene County alleging that the John Q. Hammons Trust breached its contract to designate the stadium as one of the finest in Texas to make league. There were also several parking issues for the stadium, which was under a lease that was due to expire in 2025.

The city is seeking a new lease that would keep the Cardinals in Springfield until at least 2038. As part of this agreement, the city would commit to providing an additional $4 million in funds to improve stadium conditions to improve player safety and the fan experience in order to fulfill a mandate from a Major League Baseball facility. This agreement, along with the purchase, is still subject to City Council approval.

“After several years of discussion, it became clear that the community would benefit most if the city ultimately owned the stadium,” said Springfield Mayor Ken McClure.

McClure, one of several community leaders who spoke at Wednesday’s solemn announcement, softened with emotion as he recalled Hammons.

“That was the house that Hammons built,” he said.

The Missouri State baseball program, which played its first game at Hammons Field in 2004, will continue to play at the stadium.

Since Hammons’ death in 2013, it seemed like the ballpark would eventually see new ownership, but the city said it had no immediate plans to change the name of Hammons Field.

“One of the terms of the lease is that (the stadium name change) be possible in the future,” said Springfield Cardinals general manager Dan Reiter. “The naming rights to the field would become capital projects to further improve the field. If the name changes, we want to make sure the money goes towards improvements.”

A big part of the new lease, Reiter said, was for the stadium to receive self-supporting improvements, something he felt was missing from the previous lease.

The city, which borrowed the money Hammons used to build the stadium, has held the title deed since the stadium was built in 2002 and previously agreed a 50-year lease with Hammons for the land under the field. After Hammons’ death, his trust was ordered to repay a $6.1 million bond and complete the acquisition of the stadium so it could be sold.

Now that the bond has been paid off, the City of Springfield is attempting to purchase the rights from the Hammons Charitable Trust to receive the 50-year ground lease and its right to purchase the stadium and part of the land beneath the stadium.

Gov. Mike Parson said he’s glad the city of Springfield is continuing to invest in the Cardinals’ affiliate.

“The proposed investment is not only an asset to sports fans, it represents an economic opportunity for businesses and people in southwest Missouri,” Parson wrote.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

| |
Back to top button