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Zion files suit against Fielders for $500K in back rent, more

Lake County FieldersThe Lake County Fielders (independent; North American League) and Zion (Ill.) legal battle stepped up a notch after the city filed a suit seeking back rent and more for the team’s short tenure at Fielders Stadium.

It’s the latest salvo in a legal battle that’s already seen the Fielders’ parent company, Grand Slam Sports and Entertainment, file a lawsuit seeking $10.7 million in damages, alleging the city misled owner Richard Ehrenreich and crew into their true intentions for a new ballpark: the city never intended to build a permanent ballpark and instead forced the team into playing the 2011 season at a temporary facility, leading to financial losses suffered by the franchise. Those financial losses manifested into the team missing payroll and subsequently withdrawing from the final road series of the year. Since then, the temporary ballpark has been partially dismantled (some 4,500 seats were removed), with the Zion lawsuit the latest action in the matter.

The city’s response: that under the terms of its lease it had until June 30, 2013 season to provide a new facility, which it doesn’t now need to provide because the Fielders stopped paying rent on the temporary ballpark. Zion is seeking that back rent for 2010 and 2011 — some $350,000 — as well as unpaid real-estate taxes ($101,809) and $23,993 to cover damage to ballpark. The total: $475,802.

Though the Fielders are tossing around some big numbers, this isn’t a complicated legal issue: the question is whether Zion fulfilled its obligations to the Fielders in providing a temporary ballpark in anticipation of building a new one for the 2013 season. The Fielders are arguing that since the city clearly was not going to have a new ballpark in the works, they were under no obligation to fulfill their terms of the lease. Now, there were some irregularities in the city’s behavior — issuing a press release that a pop-up ballpark was on the way for the 2011 season, which didn’t lead to anything — and there probably was some back-room dealings that certainly didn’t help the Fielders. But if a judge holds the city did in fact meet their legal obligations per the lease, the Fielders won’t have much of a legal argument against paying back rent.

The Chicago Daily Herald raises the question of whether the Fielders will play in 2012, which is pretty humorous: with no league, no ballpark, no sales force and no ticket sales, there’s no chance we’ll see Fielders fielding this year.

RELATED STORIES: PA announcer prevails in Fielders lawsuit; Fielders expand lawsuit, allege conspiracy; Illinois to Zion: Exactly where did the ballpark money go?; Zion official: Bottom line, Fielders didn’t pay bills; Ehrenreich suing Zion, potential Schaumburg buyers; Zion, Fielders headed to court?; Nine players, 125 fans in Zion; NAL season ending early; It’s Fielders vs. Fielders in Lake County; Fielders: We’re still in NAL — for now; Fielders tossed from North American League; Fielders skip on Hawaii road trip; season in question; Fielders game scrapped because of sub-par baseballs; Fielders may disband because of city inaction on new ballpark; Zion: Fielders owe us $185,000 in back rent; Fielders’ Zaman quits on the air; Fielders continue blame game for financial woes, adding league to mix; Fielders: Don’t blame us, blame Zion; Unpaid players revolt in Lake County; 9 traded, 14 released


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