The next team approached by the independent Northern League about a circuit jump: the Windy City Thunderbolts. Could this be the next step in a bigger indy-league realignment?
Apparently not content with luring the Rockford Riverhawks from the independent Frontier League, reps from the Northern League have approached the owners of the Windy City Thunderbolts about a similar shift, according to multiple sources.
The Thunderbolts play in suburban Crestwood and would make a nice fit with the existing Chicago-area Northern League teams: Rockford, Lake County (Zion), Schaumburg, Joliet and Gary-SouthShore. Presumably Windy City ownership has been offered the same sort of deal Rockford was offered: $250,000 up front, a waiver on travel-team fees and a limit on long Western road trips.
We can't stress enough that no deal has been reached, nor that there's actually a ton of interest yet from Windy City owners. But the fact reps from the Northern League are actively seeing a sixth Chicago area team may be a peek as to where the league is headed: with the addition of Windy City, you'd have the makings of a six-team circuit that could stand on its own.
Which apparently is the issue, at least on the Chicago side of the league. Some Northern League folks we've chatted with are nervous about a possible defection by Winnipeg, Fargo-Moorhead and Kansas City to the American Association. Such a move would make business sense for both the American Association and the three defecting teams; it would actually cut down on travel requirements across the entire league and for the three Northern League teams. While there are some personality issues at play here, the business case for an indy-league realignment are overwhelming — and may be too tempting for both sides to ignore.
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