Springfield Cardinals Sue over Stadium Renovations, Parking Increase

photo: Hammons Field (Springfield Cardinals)

The Springfield Cardinals celebrated their inaugural season at Hammons Field in 2005 – at which time, the new stadium was considered to be one of the crown jewels of minor league baseball.

Over the last 15 years, though, the St. Louis Cardinals Double-A affiliate believes the facility has fallen behind in comparison to other Texas League ballparks.

The highest average home attendance was achieved in the franchise’s first year at 7,523. The all-time low occurred in 2016 at 4,731 followed by 4,801 in 2017, 4,781 in 2018 and 4,757 in 2019.

And the Springfield Cardinals allege their landlords have not made necessary updates to keep Hammons Field a “first-class” baseball facility. On Feb. 20, they took their grievances to court.

The Springfield Cardinals LLC filed a lawsuit in Greene County claiming the John Q Hammons Trust breached its contract with the club to keep its stadium among the nicest in the Texas League and instituted parking prices that the Cardinals believe are “gauging fans”.

Following Hammons’ death in 2013 and subsequent bankruptcy proceedings, JQH Trust Fund and the investment firm, JD Holdings, took over as landlords for the stadium and parking lots.

The lawsuit alledges the JQH Trust hasn’t held up its end of the bargain. The club believes it has a right to terminate its lease on Hammons Field, but the Cardinals “do not currently seek to exercise that remedy.”

The suit also indicates that the Springfield Cardinals provided the JQH Trust with lists of requests to improve Hammons Field the last two seasons, but none of those renovations have been implemented.

The requests include dugout renovations, lighting and audio improvements, lightning suppression protection, Wi-Fi for the stadium, a walkway that would allow 360-degree stadium access, an interactive water feature, a destination bar in the outfield area and an additional clubhouse.

According to the lawsuit, the cost of the list of improvements for which the Cardinals have been requesting from their landlords total $8.3 million.

The filing also highlights a widespread fan concern from last season surrounding JQH Trust’s decision to increase parking prices in the lot adjacent to Hammons Field from $7 per space up to $20 per space for weekend games. The Cardinals believe the price increase is unreasonable and does not comply with the terms of the lease.

As part of the legal action requested, the team wants to lock in the parking price at $7.

The lawsuit states as part of the bankruptcy agreement, the plan was for the JQH Trust to transfer Hammons Field to a charitable trust, which was then supposed to put Hammons Field up for sale to the highest bidder.

Fast forward two years later, and the ballpark has not been sold. The Cardinals claim that it is the responsibility of JD Holdings and JQH Trust to keep up with the terms of the lease until a sale is made.

The Springfield Cardinals believe the lack of funds might explain why parking prices were increased and the requested ballpark renovations have not occurred, according to the filing. The ballpark’s current leasing agreement ends in 2025.

The Double-A Cardinals’ 2020 home-opener is scheduled for April 13.

Regarding the possibility of the team leaving, the parent club says it is unlikely. The organization hopes to quickly resolve these issues with JQH Trust.

But if no improvements are made to the ballpark, they may have to consider relocation.

“That’s a tough one,” Mike Whittle, senior vice president and general counsel for the St. Louis Cardinals told the media. “We probably would have to look at our options but we have no current intention of relocating the team from Springfield. We love our fans in Springfield and we’re committed to bringing a first-class experience.

“Unfortunately, the landlord for Hammons Field has, since the end of the 2018 season, consistently fallen short in its own obligations. We hope for a swift resolution to these ongoing issues with the landlord.”

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