The Springfield Cardinals are seeking millions of dollars in damages in a lawsuit filed against John Q. Hammons’ trust and JD Holdings LLC, the company that bought the late hotelier’s assets out of bankruptcy.
The Feb. 20 suit alleges the trust and JD Holdings have not met capital improvement obligations at Hammons Field and have damaged the team’s reputation over parking issues that arose last season, said Michael Whittle, senior vice president and general counsel for the St. Louis Cardinals and its Double-A affiliate in Springfield.
“Unfortunately, the landlord for Hammons Field has since the end of the 2018 baseball season consistently fallen short of its own obligations,” Whittle said. “We estimated the cost of improvements in excess of $8 million.”
A new Hammons charitable trust, supported by $20 million from JD Holdings, was formed in 2018 as part of the latter company’s $1 billion asset purchase for John Q. Hammons Hotels & Resorts’ 35 hotels and nearly 150 other assets, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting. Under the court-approved plan, the trust assumed the ground lease with the city for Hammons Field, as well as Missouri State University’s license to play there and the stadium lease to the Cardinals. The city and MSU are not implicated in the suit, Whittle said.
Whittle said capital improvement obligations in the court-approved plan include the replacement of seats, renovation of suites and better lighting.
“There’s a number of improvements that we’ve requested,” he said, alleging the trust and New York-based JD Holdings should have conducted improvements before last season began. “We’ve been damaged because they’ve not done anything.”
The suit also includes complaints related to last season’s issues with parking. The Cardinals last year informed customers that parking fees had been hiked to $20 from $14 at nearby lots owned by JD Holdings. The team brought on J. Howard Fisk Limousines to shuttle fans to other parking lots as a stopgap solution, according to past reporting.
Whittle said the Cardinals attempted to purchase the lot directly across from Hammons Field on Trafficway Street. He said the purchase option for the lot is included in the lease.
“They’ve not honored that obligation,” he said. “Had we bought them, we would have been passing those spaces on to our fans at a much more reasonable price than what they’re charging.”
Greggory Groves, former JQH Hotels general counsel who’s named as a defendant in the Cardinals lawsuit, could not be reached for comment by deadline. Groves, who remains a trustee for the Hammons trust, is now an attorney at Lowther Johnson Attorneys at Law LLC.
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