Lake County Fielders co-owner Richard Ehrenreich says he's confident his company will settle a bus company's lawsuit that alleged the team didn't pay its transportation bill from 2010.
Ehrenreich appeared in Lake County circuit court last Thursday for a hearing in a case that began in January over accusations the independent baseball team didn't pay $43,251 to Peoria Charter Coach Co. for travel during the 2010 Northern League season.
Court documents indicate the Fielders' parent company, Grand Slam Sports and Entertainment, has paid about half of the tab since the suit was filed. Ehrenreich said he's optimistic the dispute will be settled in time for the next scheduled hearing Dec. 1.
"We paid them (Peoria Charter) a substantial amount and we're still talking to them about the remainder," he said.
Thursday's lawsuit hearing was the latest financial twist in the Fielders' tumultuous 2011 season. Not only did some players and coaches accuse the team of not paying them all they were owed, but a dispute also erupted over the team's contractual obligations for a temporary baseball stadium the city of Zion owned.
Peoria Charter claimed in court documents the Fielders ignored invoices from May to August 2010. Included in the company's breach-of-contract suit are what's purported to be unpaid bills for transportation from Lake County to cities such as Joliet, Schaumburg, Winnipeg and Kansas City, Mo.
Douglas McMeyer, an attorney representing Peoria Charter, declined to comment on the case Monday.
Controversy began swirling around the Fielders in July when some players, coaches and a radio announcer claimed they weren't paid all they were owed. Ehrenreich and a Fielders spokesman disputed the accusations.
In September, Zion officials announced the Fielders owed $340,000 in back rent and other fees associated with the city's temporary stadium dating to the team's 2010 inaugural season. However, Ehrenreich still contends Zion violated a contractual promise to build a permanent facility this year, which is why he stopped paying rent.
Ehrenreich said the Fielders are owed money from some businesses but have not gone public with complaints.
"We're still paying people," Ehrenreich said. "We're still here. We're trying to make this work."
Zion's temporary stadium had about 4,500 mobile seats at Green Bay Road and Route 173. Documents show the state granted $1.3 million in taxpayers' money to cover permanent elements such as lights, the playing field, dugouts and parking area.
Actor Kevin Costner co-owns the Fielders, but has yet to publicly address the team's woes. The Fielders played in the North American Baseball League this year.