Zion's former economic development director says the Lake County Fielders could have received a city-owned ballpark if team ownership had paid its bills since the inaugural 2010 season.
J. Delaine Rogers issued a statement to the Daily Herald in response to a fraud and breach-of-contract lawsuit Grand Slam Sports and Entertainment lodged against her, Zion Mayor Lane Harrison, the city and a developer.
Last week, Grand Slam Sports filed the suit in Lake County circuit court claiming Rogers and the others lured the independent team, headed by Richard Ehrenreich, into playing in a temporary stadium in 2011 by making misleading statements about the status of a permanent facility.
No permanent city-owned ballpark has been constructed at Route 173 and Green Bay Road. The suit contends Rogers wrote a letter to Grand Slam Sports last March stating Zion would borrow $7.5 million for stadium construction this year.
Rogers said she must limit her remarks on the lawsuit and looks forward to challenging Grand Slam Sports' accusations in court. She alluded to Ehrenreich's now-defunct Schaumburg Flyers' eviction from publicly-owned Alexian Field last February.
"If Richard Ehrenreich had paid his vendors, employees and rent in Schaumburg, the Flyers would still have a stadium to call home," Rogers said. "If he had paid his vendors, employees and rent in Zion, the Fielders would have one, too."
Zion maintains the Fielders owe the city $340,000 in back rent for temporary stadium use in 2010 and 2011. Ehrenreich counters he refused to pay the rent because Zion didn't build the permanent ballpark as promised this year.
Also named in the suit is Richard Delisle, owner of the 23 acres at Route 173 and Green Bay Road where Zion placed the publicly financed temporary stadium and pledged to build the permanent one. Rogers now works as managing director for Delisle's hotel at the Market Square development in downtown Zion.
Only a drugstore occupies part of Delisle's Green Bay Crossing project. Zion leased a portion of the 23 acres from Delisle, then charged rent to the Fielders for facility use.
Grand Slam Sports contends the Fielders would not have played in 2011 if ownership knew a permanent ballpark wasn't in the works. The suit claims the Fielders are at an operational standstill and can't become financially sound in 2012 without a permanent stadium.
Zion received a $1.3 million grant from state taxpayers to install professional stadium lights, a playing field, dugouts and a parking area on the privately-owned Green Bay Crossing.
Delisle, Harrison and Zion City Attorney Scott Puma haven't returned messages seeking comment.