HUNTSVILLE, Ala.(WHNT)-A Huntsville city councilman is raising concerns over maintenance at Joe Davis Stadium just weeks before the Huntsville Stars begin their final season in the Rocket City.
Huntsville City Councilman Bill Kling said the Stars have not lived up to their lease agreement at Joe Davis Stadium, which specifies that the team maintain the scoreboard and public address system. The Stars lease the ballpark from the City of Huntsville, with the current agreement running through 2015. The team has already confirmed that they will move to Biloxi, Mississippi at the conclusion of the upcoming season.
Kling said the maintenance issues were the subject of a letter sent by the city attorney's office to the ballclub last year.
"The scoreboard and the PA system by contract are supposed to be maintained by the Huntsville Stars," said Kling. "Last summer I did see a letter that went to Mr. [Miles] Prentice, the owner of the Stars, pointing out the deficiencies in these two areas. During last year's season nothing was done about it."
Kling and other city officials told WHNT News 19 that the Stars never sent any formal response or even acknowledgement of the letter, further compounding an already fractured relationship between the team and city.
What if any action could be taken remains to be seen. City officials said they first want to see how the stadium operates on Opening Day before making any decisions.
"I'm not at that point yet," said Kling. "I'm saying we've got a problem, we've brought it to their attention, and we're expecting them to be good neighbors...If they're not, then the city could step in, do the necessary repair work and then hold back the appropriate amount of funds that would normally go to the Huntsville Stars."
Councilman Kling said one area where the city could potentially recoup money is parking lot revenues, a sector the city currently lets the team manage.
WHNT News 19 did contact the Stars front office, but the team declined to comment on the matter.
Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle told WHNT News 19 that the current deed at Joe Davis Stadium restricts the land's use for parks and recreation only, effectively ruling out any commercial development after the team leaves. But Battle said the return of high school football and other athletic events is a real possibility.
"We've got some good things I think can happen with it," said Battle. "Parks and Recreation is looking at possibly using it for some more football games, some hockey games, lacrosse games."
Battle said discussions over Joe Davis Stadium's future were still in the early stages, as were prospects for a new downtown ballpark that could be used to lure another minor league team. He said movement on both topics would not happen until long after the upcoming season ends. The Southern League has said it would like to explore the possibility of moving another franchise to Huntsville due to favorable factors like geographic proximity to other teams and a fast-growing market.
"I think we have good public support for minor league baseball, but we've got to gauge that and measure that," said Battle. "That public support is what pulls in the support which comes in a monetary fashion for new stadiums and new teams and everything else. We've got to make sure there's support for another team."