After losing most of the roster because of nonpayment, the Lake County Fielders (independent; North American League) is admitting cash-flow issues but doubling down on criticism for how its ballpark issue was handled by Zion and throwing criticism of the league into the mix.
Another attack — or positioning for future lawsuits, depending on your viewpoint — took place in today’s Chicago Daily Herald, where Fielders spokesperson Bernie DiMeo once again blamed the city for the team’s financial woes; a new target of criticism is the North American League:
“Had the Fielders known they would be forced to take a 32-game opening road trip and come home to another temporary stadium, they would have taken a year off until the stadium was built,” he said.
Early drafts of the North American League schedule had the Fielders playing all of their early-season games against the Rockford RiverHawks, who eventually left the circuit; by the last part of March a new schedule was being circulated that had the long field trip listed. There would have been plenty of time in March and early April for the Fielders to pull the plug on the season — a move that might have worked out better for all involved, including the rest of the league who now are paying huge travel costs to get their teams to Zion. But the Fielders had been one of the most aggressive in the NAL in selling tickets for the 2011 season; most teams waiting for a solid schedule before selling tickets. As far as another temporary ballpark in use: the team knew there would be at most modest upgrades to Fielders Stadium months before the season opened.
Meanwhile, the situation in Zion seems to be spiraling out of control. The Fielders reported 835 fans in attendance for last night’s game, following a reported attendance of 984 fans the night before after averaging a reported 2,500 or so fans in the seven previous games. While there’s always a gap between reported attendance versus turnstile counts in all of sports, this seems to be a particularly large gap: a fan at Monday’s game (and a fan without any axe to grind; as a matter of fact, they’re pulling for the team to succeed) says there was barely 200 fans in the stands by his headcount.
It’s been a mess on all sides. But blaming your fan base for things outside their control, like a rough road schedule, won’t make things any better.
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