JOLIET – The Slammers lease with the city ends Sept. 30, and it appears both sides are willing to renew, although terms might be different because of planned changes for the city-owned stadium
“We have been negotiating with the city, and we are expecting a successful conclusion,” Slammers owner Nick Semaca said.
The Slammers’ lease is on the agenda Tuesday for the newly renamed Joliet City Council Stadium Committee.
Formerly named the Baseball Committee, the new name reflects the expectation that the stadium will host many events beyond baseball once artificial turf is installed. The city expects to add artificial turf before the start of the 2018 baseball season.
Councilmember Pat Mudron, chairman of the Stadium Committee, said the new turf also will add some new twists to the lease.
“If we go forward with the turf and there’s more activity there, whose activity is that?” Mudron said. “If all these youth leagues and traveling leagues are playing there, who participates in the financial gain?”
The Slammers now are the managers of the stadium.
Semaca said the management of activities beyond baseball has been part of the team’s negotiations with city staff.
“Both we and the city have a strong desire to make the most of the facility now that we have artificial turf,” Semaca said.
Semaca said planning for the turf is well underway. It will include a reconfiguration of the stadium to make room for a soccer field. But the city has not yet hired a contractor to install turf, which has been estimated to cost
Switching from natural grass to artificial turf allows for more events because the turf can take wear and tear that will ruin a grass field.
Mudron said he believes the city will renew the lease with the Slammers, but he still wants to hear a persuasive case for artificial turf.
“I’m all for the turf,” he said. “But I need to see and hear some bigger picture, so we don’t just say people are going to come if we build it.”
An update on the artificial turf project also is on the Stadium Committee’s agenda. The committee meets at
4:30 p.m. at City Hall.
Under the current lease, the Slammers pay $75,000 a year in base rent. The lease provides for additional payments on a sliding scale based on attendance.
The lease also provides for the city to get 60 percent of the naming rights revenue from the stadium.
There is no naming rights revenue because the Slammers have not found a sponsor to replace Silver Cross Hospital since that contract expired at the end of last year.
The name Silver Cross Field still is on the stadium. But the team refers to it as Slammers Stadium.
Semaca said the Slammers continue to look for a naming rights sponsor, but he did not see the matter as one that would hold up a lease renewal.
“I think we and the city are aligned that it’s a long-term project,” he said.