I-Team Investigation: Safety hazard at Ned Skeldon Stadium

Published: Apr. 17, 2019 at 12:07 AM EDT
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There's a big safety concern in Maumee, it's not a crime issue or anything on the roads.

The problem is Ned Skeldon stadium, the old home of the Mud Hens. Things are so bad that no one is allowed to sit in the stands.

Maumee's mayor is calling it a safety risk and an eyesore.

The city of Maumee has condemned the stands.

"For the residents who live around here this is an eye sore. I don't mean just the stadium, the whole complex has become an eyesore," said Mayor Rich Carr.

It’s a complex that houses baseball, softball fields, handball courts, even some racing tracks. It's also home to the Lucas County Fairgrounds. The city of Maumee is worried about safety there to the point where inspectors condemned the stands.

Even though an adult league still uses the field itself, no one is allowed to sit there and watch those games from the seats because of structural concerns.

“The city of Maumee has instructed the county that they have to be torn down. It's a nuisance," said Carr.

Lucas County owns the entire property including Ned Skeldon stadium. The county was alerted to the issues by the city of Maumee. In a letter dated July of 2018 the city's law director denied the county more time to fix the issues, saying "the city afforded you more than the 30 days required under the Maumee codified ordinances to cure the violations identified"

That letter also adds: “We understand the historical significance of the stadium but must also ensure the nuisance is corrected in a timely manner.”

“We had hoped to maybe have some more time to see if maybe if those stands would actually fit into grander redevelopment given the historical nature of them but we're going to have to proceed, the city of Maumee has ordered us to start drawing up demolition plans,” said Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken.

But it's not all bad. Parts of the rec center complex are in good shape and used quite often. High schools, travel, even 'under 8' teams play softball and baseball on some of the diamonds.

“Unless it's 20 below zero and snowing there's somebody on this complex 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Meaning people in the winter doing the walking trails," said Al Seeger with the Lucas County Rec Center.

Seeger oversees operations at the Rec Center. He acknowledges the bad condition of "The Ned" but says the rest of the complex is as busy as ever.

“Believe it or not with all the teams I have out here I could warrant putting up 3-4 more ball diamonds. That's how busy we are out here," said Seeger.

Seeger does not run operations at Ned Skeldon stadium. That's operated by the adult league. His agreement with the county is running the other fields which can be expensive. Utilities alone cost about $140,000 yearly.

"It's old. It's antiquated. What we run into is when something breaks down out here it's not a quick easy fix," said Seeger.

When something breaks Seeger says finding a part is difficult. Now Mayor Carr would like to see this property turned over to the city of Maumee. He says if that happened he'd request proposals for redevelopment.

An August 2018 letter from the city to the county even discusses a partnership: “Given the condition of the facilities and the evolving priorities of the county and the city, it appears common ground exists to repurpose the LCRC in a way that will benefit both of our constituencies."

One developer has already approached Mayor Carr with idea to turn over a revamped baseball and softball facility to Maumee high school for starters.

“The rest of it would be a mixture of residential homes, green space, walking trails. So it's kind of a mixed use there. But that's just one. We'd open it up and let anybody who wants to submit a proposal to submit it," said Carr.

“I think the community's going to have to make a decision of what that is most valuable for," said Gerken.

If that ever happened, what happens to the kids playing here? Seeger says he had 60 teams registered last summer, 40 in the fall and already over 50 this year.

“If we don't have this here where are those kids gonna go?" added Seeger. “I don't know how you put a price tag on kids."

"The rest of our city, I think, we do a pretty good job of maintaining it, keeping it clean, enforcing our rules. This is the exception. It's just not fair to the residents. That's why we're addressing it," said Carr.

"We want to turn that land into the best use for the community. I don't know if that's giving it right over to the city of Maumee and let them do it. That may be an option or of us working collaboratively with other partners to do it. But at the end of the day the rec center you see today probably won't exist in 5 years as you see it today,” said Gerken.

Gerken tells 13abc that the county is in the process of getting a cost estimate to demolish the stands. He expects that in 10 days to 2 weeks. He also confirms he has talked with the city about redevelopment. Gerken says the ball is in the court of the city to come back with a redevelopment plan.

Gerken also told 13abc he’s not happy with the fairgrounds facility. He says they should probably find a spot that better reflects what a fair in Lucas County should look like.