Joliet Slammers prod city on stadium lease negotiations

Team says it needs matter resolved by end of August

The Slammers are prodding the city to reach terms on a new lease, saying they need an agreement by mid-September to let the Frontier League know they will be back to play in 2019.

The team, which also manages Joliet Route 66 Stadium for the city, is operating on a one-year lease, which the city wanted for the first year of artificial turf in the stadium.

City officials envision expanded use of the stadium beyond baseball with more durable artificial turf in place.

With the lease expiring Sept. 30, the Slammers are urging city officials to negotiate an agreement.

The Slammers’ attorney, Michael Hansen, spoke this week with both the full City Council and the council’s Stadium Committee, noting the team needs to assure the Frontier League that it has a place to play next year.

“We have obligations in the league to let them know that we will field a team by mid-September,” Hansen said. “Time is of the essence.”

Hansen added, “We have to get down and get this done by August from our point of view.”

City Manager David Hales said the city will present the Slammers with a “brief bullet list” of proposed changes in the lease, perhaps by sometime next week.

Council member Michael Turk, a member of the Stadium Committee who has been asking the staff for status updates on lease negotiations, said he believes the plan is to renew with the Slammers.

“I haven’t heard that we are looking at anybody but the Slammers,” Turk said.

But the city and Slammers so far have not begun negotiations, he said.

“Once we see what they’re looking at, and they see what we’re looking at, I expect it will go pretty quickly,” he said.

Turk said he has not heard the city is considering a third-party stadium manager, which is a concern Hansen and Slammers general manager Heather Mills raised when speaking to the Stadium Committee.

They said all of the teams in the Frontier League manage the stadiums where the play, adding that it is the same general practice in similar leagues.

“We submit we’re the ones who have the best motive to operate this facility,” Hansen said.

The Slammers are hoping for a longer term this time. Hansen said the team wants a five-year lease.