Rosemont assumes ownership of Chicago Bandits softball team
Rosemont owns and manages an indoor arena, theater, convention center and entertainment district, and now, it will add a women's fastpitch softball team to its roster.
The village said Wednesday it is assuming ownership of the Chicago Bandits for the 2017 season, which starts this June, following the decision of owner Bill Sokolis to step down.
The formal process has Sokolis turning rights to the team over to the National Pro Fastpitch league, and the village paying a $50,000 licensing fee to the Nashville-based league to be able to run it this year.
Mayor Brad Stephens said the fee is lower than what franchisees typically pay, since the league gave consideration to the village's past contributions to the game, including paying for construction of a $6 million, 2,000-seat stadium for the Bandits in 2011.
"They understand the value of having their Chicago franchise in the league," Stephens said.
Sokolis, who started the team with a business partner in 2005 and became sole owner in 2008, cited health reasons, among other considerations, for his decision to hand over the reins. He originally proposed a partnership with the village before deciding to step away completely.
"I had 12 years in it. It's run its course for me and I needed to do something different," said Sokolis, who owns Kole Construction in Romeoville. "I thought it was time to move on."
Day-to-day management of the team is now being handled by a new general manager, Toni Calmeyn, who is Rosemont's longtime financial analyst. Frank Cargola, the village's director of operations at the neighboring indoor sports dome, will also assist in management. Rosemont will use outgoing Bandits general manager Aaron Moore as a consultant and to help organize tournaments.
Stephens said a new head coach will be named shortly, replacing Mike Steuerwald, who took a job with another team in the league based in Texas.
Calmeyn has already been busy as the new GM, attending a recent league meeting, signing players and making trades. She'll rely on a staff of village employees and part-timers who used to work for the Bandits, including about 25 interns, to help with off-field operations.
Stephens said the village will budget for an additional $1 million worth of expenses and revenues under its regular softball stadium/dome budget line items -- on top of the $800,000 to $1 million the team typically spends.
The mayor said the plan is to be more aggressive securing sponsorship dollars. And there are also plans for a Bandits softball academy run by former and current players to teach girls softball skills. It would be housed in a 7,000-square-foot village-owned industrial building north of the Allstate Arena, and could be open as soon as this spring.
"We're piecing it together and trying to keep it active for one more year and see how it goes," Stephens said. "If it breaks even, we'll continue on. I have no reason to believe it won't."
The Bandits are defending 2016 champions of the league, having won four titles in 12 years.
Before arriving in Rosemont, the team played in Lisle and Elgin, during which time Olympic gold medalist Jennie Finch was its star player.
And though the team is now officially owned by Rosemont, Stephens said the name "Chicago Bandits" is expected to remain.