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McCrary Park

City, ZooKeepers agree on new lease

Janet Imrick

Randolph Hub


ASHEBORO – The City of Asheboro has reached an agreement for the ZooKeepers to keep playing at McCrary Park. The city council voted for a working lease for the next 10 years at their June 6 meeting.


They voted for the lease to take effect on July 1, with Joseph Trogdon as the lone dissenting vote.


In this non-exclusive agreement, ZooKeepers LLC will get priority use of the field and facilities for baseball games, practices and other events.


Asheboro High School and other groups will be allowed to use the field, but ZooKeepers will get the highest scheduling priority from May 1 to Aug. 15. The director of Asheboro Recreation Services will resolve scheduling conflicts.


The lease says, "This decision-making process is to be guided by the principle that, in addition to providing a home for summer collegiate baseball and the American Legion baseball teams, the city is committed to utilizing the Park as a venue for recreation programming, incentivizing scholastic play in the community, and bringing visitors to the Asheboro community.”


The ZooKeepers will pay $1,000 for the first year, $2,000 for the second year, $3,000 for Years 3-5, and then $5,000 for the remaining five years.


ZooKeepers will be responsible for staffing their games and other events. They will bear the cost of running concessions and novelty sales in exchange for keeping the profits. The city will continue to pay utilities and handle maintenance and clean-up.


The lease also gives the city a right of first offer and right of first refusal should the ZooKeeper owners want to sell the team.


The cost has been a point of contention in the city council's debates over the new lease. Council member Trogdon believed the franchise should pay more to recoup the cost the city incurs from running McCrary Park. Mayor David Smith, Council member Clark Bell and City Manager John Ogburn argued that they need to consider the $1.2 million contributed by the ZooKeepers and their owners — brothers Ronnie, Doug, Mike and Steve Pugh — for the park renovations.


Bell acknowledged that the higher fees they saw for teams in other cities were generally for exclusive rental agreements. He said, "They bring to our community the benefit of other teams from other places coming here, spending their money in our city, in rooms, and restaurants."


Trogdon read a statement he'd prepared before the meeting. "I've known that family my entire life, and they have my utmost respect," he said, before stating his problem was with a lack of planning for revenue and rental agreements, and the way decisions were made outside regular council discussion.


"A lack of transparency leads to accusations of mistrust and impropriety," he said. "I will continue to pursue full transparency in operations."


Smith told Trogdon, "I understand what your concerns are. You haven't wavered on it. What's done is done, and I'll take the blame for some of it."


Council member Bill McCaskill and Trogdon suggested a shorter lease for five years. Ogburn said the ZooKeepers asked for 10 years because that helps them schedule tournaments. Ten years is the maximum the city can offer without requiring a sale instead of a lease.