The Rockford Riverhawks have officially left the North American League and will go dark; meanwhile, a new group has acquired the lease to Road Ranger Stadium and other assets and will play in the independent Frontier League under the Rockford Riverhawks name. A little complicated, but let us explain.
The transaction was similar to what happened in Joliet when a new ownership group acquired certain assets of the Joliet Jackhammers (independent; Northern League) as well as a ballpark lease and will play this season in the Frontier League as the Joliet Slammers.
In this case, a group led by Dr. Chris Hanners — a former Frontier League team owner in Chillicothe, as well as a former FL president and chairman of its board of directors — has purchased certain assets held by Riverhawks owners Kurt Carlson and Dave Ciarrachi, including a lease to Road Ranger Stadium and marks. (Carlson and Ciarrachi also own the ballpark, but kept the team and the ballpark as separate legal entities.) Carlson will be leaving the scene completely, while Ciarrachi will work on the ballpark side of the equation as a landlord.
“After 20 years of active ownership in professional sports and 30 years of developing projects in the Rockford area, I will be moving away from the (RiverHawks) to free up more time for development projects, helping to bring more jobs to Rockford,” Carlson said. “I’ve also retired from the U.S. Army Reserve after 29 years of service and plan to spend more time with my family and friends.”
The existing staff, including GM Brad Sholes and broadcaster/media manager Bill Czaja, are expected to remain with the team.
“We’re excited to be back home in the Frontier League,” Sholes said. “You’ll see a lot of improvements at the ballpark this year, with a new rededication to customer service and a stronger emphasis on our affordable family fun, and you will see that reflected in our upcoming promotional calendar.”
The new Riverhawks begin play on May 20, sliding into the Kalamazoo Kings‘ spot in the Frontier League. The Kings will go dark this season.
One question remaining: how this will affect the North American League, where the old Riverhawks were slated to play. The loss of a Rockford team will drop an Eastern Division to just four teams: the Lake County Fielders and three Texas teams.
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