Slammers may sell team
By Bob Okon email@example.com September 11, 2012 2:40PM
The Slammers have put so much money into fixing, cleaning and equipping Silver Cross Field since taking over the stadium lease in December that the team has earned credits that exceed the city's annual $150,000 rent. File photo | Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 14, 2012 1:35PM
JOLIET — The Joliet Slammers are considering a sale of the team.
Team owner Alan Oremus said he is talking with a few interested buyers.
“I’ve talked to more than two parties. I’ve had meaningful discussions with two parties,” he said.
The Slammers recently completed their second season of minor-league baseball in Joliet. The team was formed just before the 2011 season after the demise of its predecessor, the Joliet JackHammers.
Slammers management has said that the team has not been able to turn a profit in its two years in Joliet.
Oremus would not discuss the team’s business situation but said prospective buyers of the team, “are passionate about it. They seem excited about the opportunity.”
The Slammers have been shedding staff since the season ended.
Manager Bart Zeller, who was Frontier League Manager of the Year in 2011, was let go last week. Also gone are Sarah Eichenberger, marketing director for the first two seasons, and two group sales representatives, Tim Fritz and Eric Esposito.
Team President Bill Waliewski said the team has been cutting back its front office staff for financial reasons.
“We just haven’t been as successful as we had hoped,” he said. “We had to react accordingly to be fiscally responsible.”
Good first year
The Slammers had a successful first season on the field, winning the Frontier League championship in 2011 despite having to put together a business and team quickly in the aftermath of the JackHammers’ financial problems. Even so, management said then that attendance was not sufficient to make a profit.
Joliet Mayor Thomas Giarrante said whatever happens to the Slammers there will be another baseball season at city-owned Silver Cross Field.
“There will be baseball in Joliet next year,” Giarrante said.
Sources have said that more than one group is interested in buying the Slammers, which would suggest strong interest in baseball in Joliet. Waliewski only confirmed one prospective buyer but would not discuss the matter in detail.
The city has a say-so in a sale of the team. The city, because it owns Silver Cross Field, would have to approve a transfer of the lease to another team owner.
The mayor said that City Manager Thomas Thanas has been in contact with Waliewski.
Oremus in the summer of 2011 appeared to be on his way to owning two independent, minor-league teams after acquiring rights to the Schaumburg franchise. Like the JackHammers, the Schaumburg Flyers had collapsed financially and the village, which owned the stadium, was looking for a new team. But before Oremus started up a team, he sold his stake and said he would focus on one baseball team in Joliet.
Oremus told The Herald-News then that he would retain ownership of the Joliet team going into the 2012 season..
“I have no reason to doubt that we’ll be in Joliet in 2012,” he said. But, Oremus added, “I’d like to see more people (in the stands) in 2012.”
Attendance was below expectations again this year, and the team had a bad year on the field. The Slammers followed their championship season with a record of 37-58.
While business has not been what the Slammers wanted, the team had a reputation for paying its bills, which was a welcome change from the JackHammers. The JackHammers, the city’s first minor-league team, had stopped paying vendors before going out of business, leading to many of them going to the city for help getting their money.
The Slammers, however, never did complete a lease with the city of Joliet for Silver Cross Field. The team does have a memorandum of agreement, which was signed when the new ownership agreed to buy the remaining assets of the JackHammers, and paid the city rent of $150,000 a year. The agreement lowered rent from the $230,000 a year charged to the JackHammers.
Both city and team officials have said for nearly two years that terms of the lease were being worked out as both sides had to agree on who was responsible for paying various costs associated with stadium upkeep.
City Attorney Jeff Plyman said the memorandum of agreement would continue to have the same weight as a lease if the team is sold.