October 28, 2021

Joliet stadium naming rights agreement released 18 months after signing

Downers Grove-based DuPage Medical Group holds rights through 2023

The naming rights agreement for city-owned DuPage Medical Group Field was released Friday after being kept from public view for a year and a half.

The agreement was released by the Joliet Slammers and DuPage Medical Group in response to a lawsuit by Shaw Media Group, which owns The Herald-News, and after an opinion from the Illinois Attorney General's office that it should be made public.

DuPage Medical Group's corporate office is located in Downers Grove.

The five-year agreement provides for a $125,000 annual naming rights payment from DuPage Medical Group through the 2023 season.

The city lease with the Slammers provides for Joliet to get half the net revenue from the agreement with certain mutually agreed deductions allowed, including signage costs.

The city received $51,000 last year, less than the $67,500 it would have received from a full 50% of the payment. The Slammers deducted $9,668 in signage costs and other expenses from the payment, according to information provided by the city Friday.

The May 2, 2019, agreement, signed by Mayor Bob O'Dekirk and representatives from the Slammers and DuPage Medical Group, had been kept confidential. At the time, then-interim City Manager Martin Shanahan described it as a private agreement to which the city was not a party.

The city owns the stadium, and the Slammers' lease provides that the team negotiate naming rights agreements that must be approved by the city.

The Joliet City Council Stadium Committee unsuccessfully pursued access to the agreement, and it was unclear whether it would even go to the council for approval.

Eventually, the City Council approved the agreement after being provided with limited provisions but not the dollar amount go the agreement or the length of the contract. It was approved in a 5-3 vote three months after the mayor signed it.

The agreement does not include any confidentiality clause prohibiting it from being made public.

"The whole reason the Slammers and DuPage wanted to keep it quiet was so that the Slammers would have a negotiating position if DuPage doesn't want to do it again," interim City Manager Jim Hock said.

The previous naming rights agreement with Silver Cross Hospital was a public document. Slammers' officials did say public knowledge of the agreement's terms made it difficult to negotiate a new agreement. But they also said confidentiality was sought by DuPage Medical Group.

Mayor Bob O'Dekirk issued a statement saying, "The release of the naming rights agreement confirms what myself and city staff have said from the very beginning. Although the document was not shown to the council at the time of the vote, the contents are exactly what was reported by myself and city staff."

The $125,000 annual naming rights fee and the length of the contract were not made public, although O'Dekirk and former interim City Manager Steve Jones had said it was a six-figure amount.

Jones was allowed to read the agreement after signing a non-disclosure agreement.

In November 2019, council members at a budget meeting learned that the city received $51,000 from the naming rights agreement when the city's finance director reported receiving a check in that amount from the Slammers. The amount was not questioned.

O'Dekirk's statement also was critical of the Herald-News' effort to make the naming rights agreement public and expressed concern that release of the agreement could impair efforts to market the team and stadium.

"I sincerely hope moving forward, that the ability of the Joliet Slammers, in marketing their team and our ballpark, is not undermined by the frivolity of a local media outlet seeking only to report negative news where none exists," the mayor's statement said.

Bob Okon

Bob Okon

Bob Okon covers local government for The Herald-News