Zion to Fielders: Pay up or get sued

Zion is giving the Lake County Fielders a last chance to pay $340,000 in back rent and other fees associated with the city’s temporary stadium before pursuing a lawsuit against the independent league baseball team, officials said.

In response a day after the Zion city council’s action, the Fielders threatened to sue over breach of contract and causing millions of dollars in losses.

Zion city council members Tuesday night authorized the Ancel, Glink, Diamond, Bush, DiCianni and Krafthefer law firm to begin litigation against Fielders parent company Grand Slam Sports and Entertainment, headed by Richard Ehrenreich.

But the aldermen and Mayor Lane Harrison agreed the law firm should make a final request to the Fielders to pay at least $340,000 that’s owed dating to team’s 2010 inaugural season. Harrison couldn’t be reached for comment.

City Attorney Scott Puma said the Fielders owe $185,000 in back rent for the temporary stadium at Green Bay Road and Route 173, along with parking revenue, stadium naming-rights money and entertainment taxes.

Ehrenreich denied the city’s claims Wednesday. He also said it’s impossible to owe Zion anything for stadium naming rights because the Fielders have yet to strike such an agreement.

He once again said Zion has failed to meet its end of a 25-year agreement by not delivering a permanent stadium as promised or a temporary facility on time in May. The Fielders began the home season in July after a 32-game road trip.

“The fees quoted by the city in that $340,000 figure are simply a fantasy,” Ehrenreich said, “and bear no relationship to our operation in 2011 or the agreement between the team and the city.

“Conversely, the team has lost millions of real dollars as it went down the city’s path of promises, and in a few days when all the seats and trailers are removed, the land will basically appear like it did a year ago — vacant.”

Zion’s temporary facility has about 4,500 temporary seats. The state granted $1.3 million in taxpayers’ money to cover permanent elements such as lights, the playing field, dugouts and parking area.

On top of the $1.3 million from state taxpayers, records show Zion has used public money from its general and water funds on temporary stadium expenses since 2010.

Zion has spent more than $1.3 million in city cash on equipment rental such as seats, generators, restrooms, chairs and mobile offices.

Through Fielders spokesman Bernie DiMeo, the team issued a statement Wednesday claiming it intends to file a lawsuit against Zion and related individuals. DiMeo contends Zion has misled the Fielders about permanent stadium construction.

For example, DiMeo said, the city has yet to borrow $7.5 million through a bond sale that had been announced by Harrison in March. The money was supposed to be for completion of a permanent structure this year.

“Earlier that same month,” DiMeo said, “the city sent the Fielders a letter that a construction contract had already been signed, that precast concrete and steel already were in production and that the stadium construction would be finished by early June.”

Actor Kevin Costner co-owns the Fielders, but has yet to publicly address the Lake County situation despite repeated requests from the Daily Herald.

Zion’s operating agreement with the Fielders states the intent of all parties was to pursue construction and use of a permanent stadium within three years of the deal dated June 30, 2010.

Ehrenreich’s now-defunct Schaumburg Flyers were evicted from publicly owned Alexian Field in February. The village of Schaumburg and Schaumburg Park District alleged the team owed about $920,000 in overdue rent and other payments.

Flyers ownership, under a judge’s order in that case, was directed to pay $551,829 in overdue rent. Ehrenreich said the Flyers were a limited-liability corporation and don’t have assets to pay.

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Richard Ehrenreich