Keys GM addresses the team’s lease situation

Here is an update on the Frederick Keys and their lease situation. Last week, the city of Frederick released a request for proposals for use of Harry Grove Stadium for the 2012 season. Those proposals must be submitted to the city by April 15.

The Keys, who have minor league territorial rights to Frederick and Montgomery counties, are the only affiliated team that can file a proposal to play there. But an independent league team could and it appears an Atlantic League team could file a proposal in an effort to move into Harry Grove Stadium.

The unsettled lease situation could potentially lead to another team moving into Frederick leaving the Keys without a home for 2012 and beyond.

The Keys officials say they want nothing other than to sign a long-term lease with the city to stay in Frederick for many years. Their lease for 2011 expires at the end of September.

Keys general manager Dave Ziedelis said Keys fans have supported their team in this effort.

“To our fans and supporters and the general population of the greater Frederick area, it comes as a surprise that the city is doing this,” Ziedelis said. “But, thankfully, all our fans and sponsors have risen and they are e-mailing elected officials in Frederick. They have written letters to the editor. The response has been tremendous.”

The Keys, we can assume, would certainly be filing their proposal by the due date. Maybe he was just choosing his words carefully, but Ziedelis said that is not a 100 percent certainty.

“If we are interested in continuing in Frederick beyond 2011, we would need to submit a proposal. Honestly, we are reviewing it and doing our due diligence. We have not yet made a decision if we are going to respond. We are certainly considering it but I can’t say at this time that we are definitely committed to submitting,” he said.

Why would the team consider not filing a proposal?

“We are reviewing the proposal. We have to review it and see what’s in it and consider it. Keep in mind we negotiated with the city of Frederick for 10 months in good faith. A couple of times we thought we had an understanding on general lease terms on a long-term lease and each time the city of Frederick took a step back, so, we are certainly frustrated by the situation and are reviewing the proposal at this time,” the Keys GM added.

I asked Ziedelis if he has begun to consider the possibility that the Keys could be forced to leave Frederick.

“I think that would be getting a little ahead of ourselves,” he said. “We have two months to see what direction we want to go.”

Ziedelis stated his case for the Keys to remain in Frederick in an interview this week. He feels that, even if an Atlantic League team files a proposal with the city, the Keys would clearly be the best tenant for Harry Grove Stadium.

“We have taken over some expenses from the city and they amount to about $400,000 on an annual basis. The taxes we pay, on a city, county and state level combined is $500,000 on an annual basis. We did an economic impact study and our impact is over $10 million dollars on an annual basis. We are the highest drawing team in Maryland from a total attendance standpoint.

“These are things we bring to the table that are very strong and dominant. You start layering these on top of one another and it’s a tremendous amount of impact with what we bring to the table as a major business and hometown team in Frederick,” he said.

Ziedelis said the Orioles are aware of and are monitoring this situation.

Meanwhile, Ziedelis said reports that the Keys are currently for sale, are not true.

“We are not for sale at this time. I think there have been a lot of erroneous media reports and as you know, the media is a business and sometimes it’s not always true. We are not for sale at this time.”

My take on this: I still contend the Keys will remain in Frederick, although the city allowing another team to file a proposal to play at Harry Grove officially opens the door for an independent team to swoop in with a bid that could trump one from the Keys.

The Keys have been one of the top-drawing teams in the Carolina League since their first season in 1989 and everyone in baseball knows Frederick is a great minor league market.

I have made several efforts to talk with a city official to get their side of this, to no avail. One observer said he had concerns that some of the city officials dealing with this may not even know the difference between an affiliated team and an independent club. Let’s hope that is not true. I would hope the city officials also due their due diligence if they have to make a decision on which team will play there in 2012.

The Keys have been a sports fixture in Frederick and having an O’s affiliate there has been wonderful for the Orioles’ organization. There is no reason for that to change, but the city has officially opened the door for another team to swoop in with this most recent development.

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