Cougars, county want Cubs to stay

As the Kane County Cougars enter negotiations with the Chicago Cubs to remain a minor league affiliate, there's no doubt team ownership and the Kane County Forest Preserve District want to maintain the relationship.

The Cubs and Cougars enter a two-week negotiation window today as the affiliate contract expired Sept. 11.

The Cougars already completed part one of keeping the Cubs happy: winning the Midwest League championship.

And they already have the green light for part two: upgrading the ballpark.

The Kane County Forest Preserve District owns Fifth Third Ballpark where the Cougars play their home games. District commissioners approved plans for several enhancements at the park tailored to the Cubs' specifications. Chief among those is a new, climate-controlled batting cage with two hitting tunnels, a second fitness center and a modernized video review room.

Cougars staff and ownership were still under a gag rule Monday regarding any possible changes in team affiliation, but the club's new owner, Dr. Bob Froehlich, spoke in glowing terms about the Cubs in an interview with the Daily Herald earlier this month.

“The Cubs are important to us,” Froehlich said. “We are working with the Cubs, and they are helping to design it,” Froehlich said. “We are doing this to keep our relationship in good shape with the Cubs.”

Kane County commissioners will be mostly spectators to the negotiations, said forest district President John Hoscheit on Monday. He said even if the Cubs demanded a giant sign with their name on it at the ballpark, commissioners would only learn about that through Cougars ownership.

That said, Hoscheit thinks there is a large local fan base for a Cougars team with a Cubs affiliation. It's because commissioners want to see the relationship continue that they fast-tracked approval for the stadium improvements. Even if the Cubs leave, the upgrades to the ballpark will be a plus for fans and any other major league baseball team that decides to partner with the Cougars, Hoscheit said.

“The stadium has been a successful operation for 20-plus years,” he said. “We expect it to be successful for 20 more. But we're happy to have the Cubs here. The feedback we've received from fans this season has been very positive.”

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