Silver Cross Field, home of the Joliet Slammers, is owned by the city of Joliet and rented out to the baseball team. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 17, 2012 6:26AM
The Joliet City Council on Monday approved a lease that has a big drop in rent for the buyers of the Slammers baseball team.
The vote ensures a change in ownership, which will be finalized once the Frontier League gives its expected approval of the new owners.
A group called Joliet Community Baseball and Entertainment is led by Josh Schaub, a 31-year-old Minneapolis attorney who is chief executive officer, and includes several investors.
“We’ve been successful in diverse businesses,” Schaub said. “We look forward to continuing what they (Slammers) have started, improving it and taking it to the next level.”
The new owners will start out by paying $50,000 in base rent, down from the $150,000 the team paid the city this year to play at Silver Cross Field. The five-year deal raises base rent to $75,000 in 2015.
The Slammers also would pay more if they top 105,000 in attendance on a graduated scale. But attendance was only about 70,000 this season, and Slammers’ management has said they could not turn a profit in the last two years.
The new owners look toward to making a profit as soon as next year, Schaub said.
The city council voted 9-0 to approve the lease agreement that was presented as the best offer by City Manager Thomas Thanas.
“There were other investment groups that contacted me,” Thanas, who negotiated the lease, told the council. “It was my opinion that this was the best proposal that came out of that process.”
There was one new proposal that came in last week that would have allowed the city to keep all of the naming rights revenue from Silver Cross Field. The city gets 60 percent of that revenue under its contract with Joliet Community Baseball.
Silver Cross Hospital pays from $80,000 to $150,000 for the naming rights, depending on attendance. The payment this season was $80,000.
But Joliet officials said the late offer came from a group that wanted to play in a league that consisted mostly of teams in Texas and other southern states.
“It did not seem to be a model that would work at Silver Cross Field,” Thanas said.
Early on, city officials said they were facing demands for lower rent from the group that’s buying the team from Alan Oremus. The terms were not made public until Thursday, although council members agreed in closed session two weeks ago to the economics of the deal.
“My observations and research concur with our city manager as far as the other offers that we received,” Councilwoman Jan Quillman said.
Councilman Larry Hug said the city was better off making a deal to keep a minor league team in Silver Cross Field than letting a season go by without baseball.
“If we leave it dark then we’re going to be spending more money for upkeep,” Hug said.
Thanas said last week that it would cost the city roughly $200,000 in routine maintenance, an expense otherwise covered by the Slammers, if there was no lease with a team.
He said Monday that expense could be lowered to about $100,000 if the city held no events at the stadium. But that would involve ending agreements that make the field available for the University of St. Francis team and a state high school baseball tournament.