Still a chance Fielders will have a field by home opener
Zion's economic development director says there remains a chance the Lake County Fielders minor league baseball team can begin a home schedule as planned June 11 at a yet-to-be-built city facility.
J. Delaine Rogers, who's one of Zion's top government officials, said Thursday that grading work has started so a diamond can be installed for a new ballpark on the northeast corner of Green Bay Road and Route 173.
Rogers said construction on a permanent stadium will not begin until after the Fielders' season ends in September. However, she said, 6,000 temporary fold-down seats, portable suites, three party decks, permanent field lighting, mobile restroom facilities and a children's play area would be on the property for the Fielders' inaugural season.
It's realistic for the work to be finished in time for the Fielders' home opener June 11 against the Gary SouthShore RailCats, she said.
"I know people are going to sit there and say, 'They're crazy,' but you know what? Nothing bad can happen by trying," Rogers said.
Rogers and Richard Ehrenreich, managing partner and president of Fielders parent company Grand Slam Sports & Entertainment in Deerfield, said Schaumburg's Alexian Field may be used by the Lake County team if the new Zion site isn't ready June 11.
Alexian Field is co-owned by the village of Schaumburg and the town's park district. Ehrenreich is managing partner and a principal owner of the Schaumburg Flyers, which play in Alexian Field. Both the Flyers and the Fielders are in the independent Northern League.
Despite the stance by Rogers and Ehrenreich, Schaumburg Mayor Al Larson said Thursday he's heard of no plans for the Fielders to play any home games at Alexian Field.
Although the Flyers' Alexian Field lease incudes an opportunity for other kinds of special events, Larson said he doesn't believe that extends to allowing other teams to treat it as their home field without first consulting the village and park district.
"They've not talked to us," Larson said of Fielders management. "I've heard nothing about it. I've heard no rumor about it."
Larson said about all he could envision is the Fielders playing so-called home games against the Flyers at Alexian Field. He said he cannot foresee the Lake County team hosting other Northern League contests in Schaumburg.
Schaumburg and Lake County are scheduled for home games against other teams on the same day eight times in June. The Flyers are to visit Lake County on June 24, 25 and 27, with the teams set for Schaumburg on June 26.
Originally, the Fielders' stadium was pegged for a 55-acre former landfill site near Ninth Street and Green Bay Road in Zion. Plans called for a 4,000-seat stadium with amenities such as suites, party decks and a concert stage.
But construction never started on the 55 acres. In April, Fielders and Zion officials announced a shift to the new site about a half-mile south at Green Bay and Route 173.
About $1.3 million in state money Zion obtained can be used for permanent elements at the stadium site, such as the field lighting, Rogers said, with private cash covering the rest. A total cost of the project was not immediately available. The stadium would be leased by Zion and not taxed, she said.
Rogers said roughly 40,000 square feet of retail development and a movie theater incorporated into the ballpark would be on the tax rolls. She said a year-round restaurant and banquet facility would be part of the stadium.
• Daily Herald staff writer Vincent Pierri contributed to this report.