Baseball team still eyeing opener at new stadium
Plans for a new minor league baseball stadium in Zion are being scaled down in order to have it ready for opening day, amid delays in negotiating lease agreements, owners of the Lake County Fielders said.
Richard Ehrenreich, managing partner and president of Fielders parent company Grand Slam Sports & Entertainment in Deerfield, said he expects a deal with Zion city government by month's end. Despite a tight timeline, he's optimistic the stadium can be ready for the team's inaugural 2010 season because the reduced design would require 45 fewer construction days.
However, Enrehreich said a contingency plan is in place to play home games at another Lake County site if the ballpark isn't ready for the June 11 home opener. He declined to identify the location.
"It's always tricky in Year 1," said Ehrenreich, whose Schaumburg Flyers minor league team plays in Alexian Field owned by the village and park district. "Everybody holds their breath and hopes the stadium opens on time."
The revised plan calls for a single-story structure at Green Bay Road and 9th Street in Zion's Trumpet Corporate Park. It would include all elements of the original design, such as suites, a party deck, banquet facility and concert stage.
An upper deck could be added onto the stadium in the future, under the revised plan. Zion officials had been touting a $15 million stadium with 4,000 permanent seats to be paid with state, city and private sources.
Stadium seating would remain at 4,000 in the revised plan, with total baseball capacity of 7,000 including lawn areas, the concert stage and party decks. Concert capacity would be 11,000, according to the Fielders.
Northern League Commissioner Clark Griffith, a Minneapolis attorney, said Ehrenreich has assured him the stadium will be built. After starting the season in late May with 20 road games, the Fielders return for their home opener against the Gary Southshore RailCats.
Zion's economic development director, J. Delaine Rogers, said in a statement a network of public and private partnerships has been crafting the stadium lease for the Fielders. Rogers said she's spent four years working with Ehrenreich to bring minor league baseball to Zion.
"It is a very complicated project with a great number of moving parts," Rogers said, "since we're still negotiating a lease, finalizing our permit review with the (Illinois Environmental Protection Agency), completing design tweaks and working with our state officials on potential infrastructure grants related to Trumpet Park."
Democratic state Sen. Michael Bond of Grayslake is among those involved in the stadium proposal with Zion officials and Trumpet Corporate Park representatives.
Bond said he secured $1 million for Zion to spend on infrastructure at Trumpet Corporate Park - including the stadium - from the state's $31 billion public works program known as a capital bill. Zion has yet to receive the money.
Illinois is in a border fight with Wisconsin to retain businesses, Bond said, which is why he sought money for Trumpet Park. He said the Fielders and the stadium would be an amenity at the business complex.
Richard Delisle, of Lee & Associates Commercial Real Estate Services, has been working on the stadium lease on behalf of Panattoni Development Co., which began Trumpet Park.
Delisle said the property Zion would buy from the North Shore Sanitary District for the stadium is ready for construction after movement of at least 10,000 cubic yards of soil and various tests. He said it's not yet known how much the stadium itself would cost.
In a statement on the stadium he issued Feb. 11, Zion Mayor Lane Harrison said 83 percent of the suites are leased, and a concourse-level, year-round restaurant is planned. He said two concerts have been negotiated for the ballpark stage.
Harrison said more than $800,000 in private money has been committed to the project so far. Delisle said the goal is to spend as little public money as possible.
Ehrenreich said his company intends to spend $2.5 million to $3 million on Zion ballpark improvements, including a separate scoreboard and video board. He said he's in negotiations with a company he declined to identify for stadium naming rights.
The redesigned stadium plan will be unveiled at the first of three Fielders Fan Fest events at 2 p.m. Sunday at Libertyville Sports Complex, 1950 N. Route 45.