Joliet Slammers’ rent would drop to $50,000 a year under proposal
By Bob okon firstname.lastname@example.org October 12, 2012 9:02PM
The sliding scale
Proposed rent for the Slammers in 2013 and 2014
Base Rent: $50,000
If attendance reaches 110,000: $55,000
If attendance reaches 125,000: $75,000
If attendance reaches 150,000: $137,500
If attendance reaches 175,000: $200,000
If attendance reaches 200,000: $262,500
If attendance reaches 225,000: $337,500
(In 2015, base rent goes to $75,000 and sliding scale would increase.)
Updated: November 15, 2012 6:36AM
JOLIET — The prospective buyers of the Slammers will get a 67 percent rent reduction at city-owned Silver Cross Field if a deal on the table goes through.
The Joliet City Council is expected to vote on the lease proposal Monday.
The new owners would pay a base rent of $50,000 a year, which is down from the $150,000 that the Slammers now pay.
“It’s low, but the city manager seems convinced that that’s as good as it’s going to get,” Councilman Robert O’Dekirk said Friday.
The current rent already is down from the $230,000 that was charged to the JackHammers before they went out of business in 2010. But the JackHammers were dissolved amid a sea of unpaid bills that included the rent due to the city.
City Manager Thomas Thanas, who negotiated the deal, said the $50,000 rent proposal is a reflection of economic conditions and minor-league baseball.
“There’s been a significant decrease in rent paid by baseball teams in markets that have struggled,” Thanas said. “There’s no doubt that we’re in a struggling market right now.”
The Slammers are being sold after two years in which team management said it was unable to make a profit.
The $50,000 rent, however, would give the city enough money to meet its obligations as owner of the ballpark without dipping into its general revenues, Thanas said. The stadium is already paid for, so there is no debt cost. And the city gets a cut of the naming rights fee paid by Silver Cross Hospital. The city’s share, which goes up 10 percent in the deal, would range anywhere from $35,000 to $77,000 depending on attendance.
Rent also goes up with attendance, but only begins to climb at 110,000. The Slammers drew 70,000 last year, suggesting the new owners have a long way to go to hit the 110,000 mark.
Thanas also emphasized that the city would face an estimated $200,000 in routine maintenance costs, which are paid for by the Slammers, if no minor league team was put into Silver Cross Field next year.
The University of St. Francis plays baseball in the downtown stadium. The city also has a contract to host an Illinois High School Association state baseball tournament there.
That prospect of paying more with no team at Silver Cross Field appears to be motivating council members and Mayor Thomas Giarrante to vote for the deal.
“It’s not what we wanted,” Giarrante said of the $50,000 rent. But he added, “We can’t leave the place empty. ...Considering everything, I’m going to support it.”
Councilman Terry Morris, whose district includes the stadium, said he thinks he would vote for the rent deal.
“The economy is bad across the board,” Morris said. “We’re going to have to make (rent money) up on the back end, so to speak. If they have a good plan to put more people in the stands, the rent can to up.”
It can go up to $55,000 if the Slammers draw 110,000. Or it could be $137,500 with attendance of 150,000 -- double this year’s attendance. The sliding scale maxes out at $337,500 if the team were to triple this year’s attendance and hit 225,000.
In any case the base rent itself would go up to $75,000 in 2015, the third year of the five-year package.
The new buyers include Josh Schaub, a Minneapolis attorney; Jim Haller, an Omaha businessman who once pitched in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ organization; Thomas Gump, a Minneapolis real estate developer; Nick Semaca, an Evanston resident described as a “private investor;” and Jamie Nieland, a farmer and former owner of Sac City Drug in Sac City, Iowa.
The city council’s baseball and finance committees will meet in a joint meeting at 2:30 p.m. Monday at city hall to review the deal. The full city council meets in a workshop session at 3:30 p.m. and could vote on the lease proposal then.
Finance Committee Chairman John Gerl said he favors the deal and also mentioned the financial hazards of going a year without a team in Silver Cross Field.
“Do I wish it were more? Yes.” Gerl said. But he added, “We had previous owners whose rent was $150,000, and they could not make it work.”