Bandits season scratched, but there still will be softball in Rosemont in 2021

The Chicago Bandits won't play for the second season in a row amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but there will be women's softball this summer at their stadium in Rosemont, village officials said.

A confluence of factors, including issues stemming from COVID-19 and the participation of several players in the Summer Olympics in Toyko, led the National Pro Fastpitch league last month to cancel the 2021 season.

But this month, Rosemont officials announced a three-year extension of a facilities use agreement with a different league, Athletes Unlimited Softball, which held its inaugural season last summer in the Parkway Bank Sports Complex's softball stadium, where the Bandits normally play.

The unconventional league, where individual players and statistics are emphasized and new team rosters are drafted each week, played a five-week season in August and September in front of 2,000 empty stadium chairs. But games did get some national attention on the CBS Sports Network and ESPN platforms.

"They think that they're going to get some better exposure this coming year because it was fairly successful (last year)," Mayor Brad Stephens said.

Some Bandits players are set to play in the Olympics, which was delayed a year until July 2021 because of the pandemic. Others will participate in Athletes Unlimited, which is scheduled to begin in late August.

The National Pro Fastpitch league, meanwhile, faces a precarious future. In deciding to suspend the 2021 season, officials with the Nashville-based league said last month that individual team operations would be difficult with some venues unavailable, or only with restrictive conditions on attendance and COVID-19 protocols.

The Olympics-shortened season would have been abbreviated further by quarantine requirements for the three international teams that play in the five-team league. The Canadian Wild, largely made up of the Canadian national team, plays in downstate Marion; the Aussie Peppers from Australia play in Mankato, Minnesota; and the Cleveland Comets are from Mexico.

The league said planning for a 2022 season will begin "once the issues of safety for fans, players and staff have been resolved."

The village of Rosemont assumed ownership and management of the Bandits in 2017 when owner Bill Sokolis decided to step down. Stephens said the village has certain rights to the team should the league start up again, but it's in a holding pattern.

"Right now, this will be the second year in a row that play has been suspended," he said. "It's all going to depend on how much of a bump that women's softball gets from the Olympics."

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