Schaumburg picks new team for Alexian Field

The village of Schaumburg and Schaumburg Park District have selected a new operator for Alexian Field who will stage community events there this summer and bring minor league baseball back to the stadium in 2012.

The new operator is Alan Oremus, former owner of Prairie Material, a giant concrete supply firm based in the south suburbs, and current owner of the minor league Joliet Slammers.

While many minor league owners have a financial interest in more than one team, in lots of instances these are scattered across the country, Schaumburg Village Manager Ken Fritz said.

Oremus was a minor investor in the early years of the Flyers, is familiar with both the ballpark and the community and doesn’t have his focus scattered all around the country, Fritz added.

“What you look for is how much time they can commit,” Fritz said. “The advantage to Mr. Oremus is that he has a team that is local.”

The village and park district had sued Alexian Field’s former occupant, the Schaumburg Flyers, and ultimately won a court order last month evicting the team for failing to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in rent and other fees. Alexian Field had been home to the Flyers since 1999.

Since a judge ordered the team to vacate Feb. 24, the village and park district have been discussing options for the stadium with a number of interested parties.

After 10 days of negotiations with more than four potential operators, the two bodies authorized their staffs to formalize an operating agreement based on Oremus’ proposal and present it for consideration at their respective board meetings.

While the pool of interested parties included some who could have started a team in 2011, the long-term outlook didn’t favor rushing in a team in a smaller league without the ability to build up fan interest in advance, Fritz said.

“At least three people said you only get to make a good first impression once,” he said.

Oremus’ group is already entering into a lease that covers 2011. Nothing about the departure of the Flyers or the yearlong hiatus of a minor league team are interfering with Alexian Field’s construction being paid off at the end of 2013, Fritz said.

Oremus and his staff will operate the stadium this summer concentrating on amateur baseball, community activities, baseball clinics, fantasy camps, not-for-profit rallies, meetings, concerts and more, according to the village. 

The stadium already has been for the Roosevelt and Dominican universities baseball teams, as well as the Schaumburg Seminoles youth baseball organization. Those relationships will continue, Fritz said.

It’s possible that high school, youth baseball and some hosted minor league games may also become part of the summer season at Alexian Field, he added.

The new professional team, whose name will be decided later this year, will play in the independent American Association. The league is comprised of 14 teams, including the St. Paul Saints, Gary SouthShore RailCats, Winnipeg Goldeyes, Sioux City Explorers, Fargo-Moorehead RedHawks and Kansas City T-Bones.

Many of those clubs played in the Flyers’ former Northern League when it was managed by Miles Wolff, who now manages the American Association, Fritz said.

Rich Ehrenreich, owner of the Flyers, expressed disappointment that the village and park district passed on a potential buyer for his team who could have brought baseball to the stadium without interruption this summer.

While the village is continuing to seek overdue fees from Ehrenreich’s organization, he said he plans to seek reimbursement for what he called an overpayment of the amusement tax on tickets, which goes toward funding the village’s Renaissance Hotel and convention center.

The village imposes a 5 percent tax on ticket prices, but Ehrenreich said state statute limits the amount on sporting events to 3 percent. However, the village’s Home Rule authority may allow it to impose the additional 2 percent.

Schaumburg Village Attorney Jack Siegel said the baseball team has no legal authority to seek reimbursement for a tax it never paid, but merely collected from ticket buyers before passing it along to the village.

The Flyers are expected to vacate the stadium by midnight Thursday.

Oremus could not be immediately reached for comment Wednesday.