The Lake County Fielders ownership is pitching a new ballpark as part of a $70-million sports complex and apparently is working with a developer — but it doesn’t sound like Zion officials are listening.
Elizabeth Ochoa of Ochoa Enterprises, a Chicago-area developer, showed up at last night’s Zion City Council meeting, supposedly to present a plan for a $70-million complex, in an appearance touted by Fielders PR head Bernie DiMeo. But she wasn’t allowed to speak to the council (although she had previously met with some city officials), and it sounds like city officials were peeved Ochoa’s appearance was foisted on them with little warning:
“I have no comment on this,” [said Commissioner Jim E.] Taylor, as quoted by the Chicago Daily Herald. “This publicist (DiMeo) needs to get a life.”
While Ochoa wasn’t talking about the specifics about her development proposal, DiMeo did: he said the Fielders would drop their lawsuit against the city if Ochoa was allowed to proceed with her plan. After the 2011 season, Grand Slam Sports and Entertainment — owner of the Fielders — filed suit against the city, arguing Zion failed to provide a suitable ballpark and stuck the team in a temporary facility where the Fielders could not make money. The city, on the flip side, is seeking over $300,000 in back rent from the Fielders.
Whether this is a sideshow or something that could keep the Fielders alive remains to be seen. Some Googling of Ochoa Enterprises didn’t yield much in the way of completed projects; two years ago the firm walked way from a $30-million entertainment development in Yorkville, despite the city passing a 3 percent amusement tax to help pay for it.
Even if a new ballpark was forthcoming, it’s hard to see where the Fielders could play. The team apparently isn’t part of the independent North American League any longer — it’s not listed as a current or prospective team — and after fallouts with American Association folks when many team owners were together under the Northern League banner, it’s hard to see that circuit welcoming the ownership.
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