Probable new Slammers owner says changes needed to make team a success
By Bob Okon firstname.lastname@example.org October 2, 2012 4:38PM
Tom Gump, from Joliet Community Baseball and Entertainment LLC looks on as his partner, Josh Schaub, talks to members of the city council baseball committee at city hall in Joliet, IL on Monday October 1, 2012. The group he is with is trying the buy the Slammers baseball team | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 4, 2012 6:19AM
JOLIET — Just why do the next owners of the Slammers think they can make money with professional baseball in Joliet when those before them could not?
That was a question phrased slightly differently by Councilwoman Jan Quillman Monday when she quizzed prospective owner Josh Schaub repeatedly on how he would capitalize on ideas that have been talked out before.
“Many of the things you said I heard two years ago,” Quillman said, noting that certain ideas like selling local favorites at the concession stands were mentioned by current owner Alan Oremus when he bought the JackHammers in 2010.
Schaub and his group of investors, whom he did not identify when asked by The Herald-News, apparently think they can execute better. Schaub, a Minneapolis attorney with a baseball background but no previous ownership experience, would not talk with The Herald-News but gave the city council some idea of what the new ownership wants to do.
Schaub’s main point is that the new ownership will be more keen on capitalizing on good ideas.
“We will continue the Slammers name, trademark and logo,” he said. “But we will be doing things differently to take advantage of what we see as missed opportunities of the previous ownership.”
For one, he said, the advertising sales staff would be as much as doubled to bring more revenue into the ballpark.
The new Slammers also would be more aggressive in promoting group ticket sales, offering special attractions like packages that allow a group to go to the game, eat and drink without ever reaching for their wallets.
The Hall of Fame Room would finally be put to good use, Schaub said. He’s thinking of making it a pregame spot where season ticket-holders can gather for drinks and food, adding more value to their experience at the ballpark.
The new group has not bought the Slammers yet, but has given itself a name: Joliet Community Baseball and Entertainment.
That’s a clue that Schaub is thinking beyond baseball, and he said so more than once. In the early days of minor league baseball in Joliet, the JackHammers drew lots of fans and made money. But the formula has not worked in recent years.
Schaub told the council that baseball alone won’t make it. He wants to bring lacrosse and soccer to Silver Cross Field. He wants to stage weddings and graduations with the idea that people at those events will come back for baseball.
He talked about creating “affordable family entertainment not just for the 48 baseball games a year, which we call parties.”
If they’re going to call them “parties,” the prospective owners better have food and drinks that people want. Schaub emphasized the need to lower prices and bring in some local fare, although he did not name names.
“We want Silver Cross Field to be a food destination where people go to eat — not just eat while they watch baseball games,” Schaub said.
That’s about when Quillman interjected with the comment that she had heard this before. Oremus and his management team were saying the same things when they took over the team.
Schaub admitted he had a challenge ahead of him dealing with Levy Restaurants, which now has the contract for concessions at Silver Cross Field. But, he said, changing the menu and prices was necessary for the team to draw fans and make money.
Of course, one way to make a business profitable is to lower costs.
Schaub’s group wants the city lower the rent at Silver Cross Field to an amount that has yet to be disclosed.
City Manager Thomas Thanas said the details of the lease agreement will be made public on Oct. 11, which is the Thursday before the council’s Oct. 15-16 meetings. That’s when the council is likely to vote on the lease deal.
The Slammers rent of $150,000 already is down from the $230,000 charged to the JackHammers before they went out of business.
But Thanas said there will be features designed to bring in more revenue, such as: higher rent once season attendance passes a mark in the 100,000 range; and profit-sharing for the city on revenue from special events.
“We are building this agreement so there is an upside for the city if there is success,” Thanas said.