The franchise will be owned and operated by Rockford Baseball Properties, LLC and will play its home games at a to-be renamed ballpark in Loves Park. The team has signed a five-year lease with Gurnee-based NorthSide Community Bank, the owner of the ballpark at 4503 Interstate Blvd. previously known as RiverHawks Stadium, Road Ranger Stadium and Aviators Stadium. The Northwoods League team has no ties to any of the prior teams. The future of the ballpark had been in question and was the subject of an online auction earlier this year.
The team is owned by league president Dick Radatz, Jr. and Chad Bauer, who has worked with Northwoods League teams in Green Bay and Mequon, Wisc. Bill Czaja, formerly involved with Rockford Frontier League teams and the Beloit Snappers (Low A; Midwest League), is also part of the startup effort.
“Coming into a startup like Rockford, the top three things we want to accomplish are: elevating the appearance of the stadium, by cleaning and repairing the things that have been neglected; hiring a friendly and professional staff; elevating the quality of our concessions to a restaurant-quality level,” Bauer said. “We’ve found in other markets that these three things are key elements to successful franchises.”
Geographically, Rockford is a good match for the Northwoods League: it’s only 1.5 hours between Madison and Rockford, and it puts a team closer to the two Michigan teams.
It appears that the Alexandria Blue Anchors will cease operations in 2016 to make way for the new Rockford team. A Bismarck, N.D. team will launch for the 2017 season.
Meanwhile, it still looks like the Frontier League’s Aviators will live on in a different market, as team owner Dr. Chris Hanners is reportedly exploring an option for the 2016 season.