Ruling in suit against Zion’s ‘field of dreams’ expected Thursday
By Jim Newton email@example.com | @JimNewton5 October 29, 2013 12:30PM
The field built for the Lake County Fielders at the corner of Route 173 and Green Bay Road in Zion is deserted. | Jim Newton/Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 1, 2013 7:16AM
Will it be tricks or treats for the Lake County Fielders baseball team this Halloween?
A ruling on a $10 million lawsuit by the team against the city of Zion, as well as Mayor Lane Harrison, its former economic development director Delaine Rogers and developer Richard Delisle, is expected in Lake County Circuit Court Thursday, according to team attorney Stephen Boulton.
Meanwhile, Zion taxpayers are on the hook for more than $7 million in expenses spent by the city on site prep for the stadium, lighting, legal fees and other items related to the ill-fated venture, according to an NBC News report last week.
Sources close to the situation told the News-Sun this week the expense total is even higher than that.
The lawsuit, being heard by Judge Jorge Ortiz, contends Harrison and the city reneged on promises to build a $6 million to $7 million stadium, even after the City Council approved the bonds needed to do so.
The minor league baseball team, including owner Rich Ehrenreich, has included “civil conspiracy” counts in the team’s lawsuit.
The suit contends Harrison, Rogers and Delisle conspired to keep knowledge from the team about heavy debt on the new ballpark site — a more than $7 million mortgage — and that the three also conspired to defraud the team and provide potential profit to companies tied to Delisle.
The suit claims they engaged in “fraudulent misrepresentation, material omissions, bribery, and intentional misuse of public services and public resources.” It also says the three entered the city into a 25-year lease agreement aimed at helping Delisle and his partners refinance that mortgage to avoid foreclosure.
Harrison has not returned calls for comment.
Attorneys for Zion have argued that Harrison and Rogers should be dismissed from the suit due to statutory immunity as city officials. Rogers no longer works for the city, and has taken a job working for Delisle.
The team would still “love” to play in Zion, Boulton said, although the former field at the northeast corner of Route 173 and Green Bay Road sits vacant in a state of disrepair.
He said the team has reached out with an offer to play in a considerably less expensive stadium than the one it says that the city promised, but the city refuses to entertain the offer.
The stadium’s groundbreaking in 2009 promised a “field of dreams” era of local minor league baseball, and the team played its 2010 season in a makeshift stadium at the site where the permanent one was to be built, thanks to a special league exception to stadium standards.
The 2011 season, however, began with away games and the team never returned. Players and managers quit because they weren’t being paid.
Boulton said the Fielders’ organization is dormant but has not filed bankruptcy, and that the team could be rebuilt and ready to go in 60 to 70 days. The team also continues to be partially owned by actor Kevin Costner.