Kane County Cougars face season cancellation if owner doesn't pay license fees
The Kane County Cougars' 2024 season could be canceled if owner Robert Froehlich does not pay $225,000 in license fees due to the Kane County Forest Preserve District for the use of its baseball stadium.
The forest preserve district sent a demand letter to Froehlich on Nov. 22 seeking payment for $725,000 to cover the 2021 and 2022 fees owed. The letter demanded the fees to be paid by Dec. 31 and threatened to cancel the 2024 season if they remained unpaid.
Froehlich, who already had paid $175,000, sent a check on Dec. 12 for an additional $325,000, covering the license fee of $500,000 for 2022, after forest preserve Commissioner Mark Davoust negotiated the payment on the district's behalf.
"My goals have always been the same -- to satisfy our bond obligation -- our debt -- find a way to stop being owners of a baseball stadium and try not to kill baseball in Kane County," Davoust said at a Dec. 13 forest preserve commission meeting.
Under the contract terms, Froehlich would have the option to play his final season in 2023, not pay anything, and leave, Davoust said, "and we'd be here without baseball and an empty stadium."
The remaining amount, $225,000 for 2021, is under negotiation, officials said.
Froehlich did not return voice mail or text messages seeking comment.
According to the district's 2022 budget, revenue from the Cougars was listed as $225,000 for 2021 and $500,000 for 2022. The district's new executive director, Ben Haberthur, stated in an email that the commission forgave all calendar year 2020 payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Forest preserve commissioners voted unanimously at a special meeting on Nov. 22 to have its attorney Gerald Hodge send the letter to Froehlich, demanding payment for the unpaid 2021 and 2022 license fees.
"Failure to pay the full amount ... shall be considered a material default ... and the License agreement shall be considered terminated effective as of the end of the 2023 baseball season, at which point, full possession of the premises must be returned to the district," Hodge's letter stated.
"No amounts were paid in 2021 and that aspect remains in dispute," Hodge stated in an email. "The license agreement calls for annual license payments in the amount of $500,000. I cannot comment further, as negotiations are continuing."
Davoust said he negotiated on behalf of the district directly with Froehlich, resulting in the additional payment.
"The efforts with our quirky baseball team owner had not gotten to a point where we'd had a good resolution," Davoust said at the Dec. 13 meeting. "In fact, quite the opposite."
Davoust said Froehlich reached out to him. They talked and came to a solid position to move talks forward.
"And my understanding is that he kept his word, which was delivering a check for $325,000 yesterday (Dec. 12) morning," Davoust said. "He continued to assert that he would make the first payment for 2023 of $50,000 on time and in full."
According to the license agreement, the Cougars' payment schedule for each year is $50,000 due March 31; $175,000 due June 30; $175,000 due Sept. 30; and $100,000 due Dec. 31.
Froehlich asked that they revisit the amount due for 2021, Davoust said.
"I said, 'You know there has to be something. It's not going to be zero again like 2020.' He agreed. He said, 'Yes, it's going to be between zero and ... $500,000.' We have to come up with that, and we should do it before we get to that payment date at the end of March," Davoust said. "I did talk to him, and that's the result."
Forest preserve commission President Chris Kious said he could not comment as negotiations with Froehlich are ongoing.
In a text message, Davoust wrote that he could not comment further, "as it is an active contract situation."
According to its website, kccougars.com, the Cougars' 2023 season goes from May 11 to Sept. 4.