The ugly situation in Zion (IL) has just gotten uglier. A day after receiving a default notice for unpaid back rent for using the team’s temporary baseball facility, Lake County Fielders owner Rich Ehrenreich is now threatening to cease operations of his club and file suit against the city, unless Zion begins building the team’s permanent baseball stadium. Read more here and here.
PRESS RELEASE – The Lake County Fielders, a minor league baseball team in Zion, IL, delivered a strong message to Mayor Lane Harrison of the City of Zion this week. The team, which has been playing home games for two seasons in a makeshift temporary ballpark, informed the Mayor that if the City does not immediately commit to start construction on a permanent stadium this month, the team will suspend operations and pursue legal action against the City.
“There is a long trail of public promises and enforceable agreements by the City to build the permanent stadium for the 2011 season,” said team spokesman Bernie DiMeo of DiMeo Communications. “The ballclub, its advertisers, fans, and league all relied on those promises, and substantial financial commitments were made by all. The City and its political leaders must be held accountable for the situation they created, and cannot be allowed to make financial promises to small businesses to locate in their town, then break those promises and cause severe financial harm to innocent businesses and their customers.”
On March 21, 2011 the City approved a $7.5 million bond sale to complete the project for the 2011 season. The next day, on March 22, 2011, Mayor Harrison provided the following quote to the media, “The City of Zion could not be more proud of the Lake County Fielders’ organization and the opportunities they continue to bring to our community. We are moving forward with the construction of a permanent stadium in time for the 2011 season and would like to thank Mr. Ehrenreich for his unwavering commitment to this project. With his vision and the support of our tireless staff we know our Field of Dreams will finally come true.” To-date, the City still has not commenced the sale of the bonds.
“The City continues to claim that the bond sale delay is caused by issues with the stadium land lease and the land owner (Green Bay Crossing, LLC), but the project was originally located at a site just a half mile north without any of those issues. The City, not the team, decided on its own to change the location, and the result has been delay after delay, broken promises, and financial losses in the millions of dollars for the team,” continued DiMeo. “The City has damaged a small business that believed in Zion, and that’s no way to treat people who risked everything during a tough economy to make your town a better place to live and visit.” In 2010, the City of Zion received $1.3 million from the State of Illinois to assist in the construction of the stadium, and ensure that the Fielders located in Illinois, and not an alternative site in Wisconsin.