JOLIET – The Slammers are approaching the start of another baseball season with no sponsor to put a new name on the stadium.
Meanwhile, the city of Joliet, which owns the stadium, has begun making plans to spend $1.2 million on artificial turf as soon as the fall.
Artificial turf could come sooner than a new name for the stadium, which was Silver Cross Field until the naming rights contract expired at the end of 2016.
Team President Nick Semaca said Wednesday that a naming rights deal could occur at any time or not at all this baseball season.
“We could have something in a few weeks. We could get something in a few months,” Semaca said. “We could have nothing until the end of the year.”
On Wednesday, Semaca discussed naming rights with the Joliet City Council Baseball Committee.
Naming rights are an issue for the Slammers and the city of Joliet. The team and city both get revenue from annual naming rights payments.
Silver Cross Hospital, which had a 15-year naming rights contract at the stadium since it opened in 2002, paid up to $150,000 a year depending on attendance and other factors.
“Silver Cross Field” still is on the sign at the stadium front gates, and Semaca said the team is not inclined to remove it until a new sponsor is signed.
In the meantime, he said, the team simply refers to the ballpark as Slammers Stadium.
Semaca said the Slammers are “ready to go the long haul” to get the right sponsor.
“It’s an important deal,” Semaca told the committee. “It’s something that hopefully could be long-term.”
The city’s plans to install artificial turf are moving ahead.
City Manager Jim Hock told the committee that a contract proposal for the project could go to the City Council for a vote in April.
The cost of the project, which would include changes in left field to create space so the stadium also could be used for soccer, is estimated at $1.2 million, Hock said.
Hock said he will propose using city reserve funds to pay for artificial turf and recoup the money over time from the newly expanded Special Service Area tax that was extended from downtown into surrounding areas, including the ballpark.
The expansion of the SSA tax is expected to add $230,000 to the $400,000 collected when it was applied only to downtown businesses.
The money historically has been used to promote business development in the taxing area. But early on, city officials said they intended to use at least part of the money to put artificial turf in Silver Cross Field.
Hock said he planned to take the money out of the SSA tax over a period of years so as not to deplete the fund at one time.
“I don’t want to place an undue burden on their funds,” he said.