Wayne's Words: Who owns Route 66 Stadium? Home of Slammers baseball

Wayne Horne | 5/30/2019, 6 a.m.
Last week’s announcement regarding the naming rights for Joliet Route 66 Stadium may be somewhat premature. To be clear, there ...

Last week’s announcement regarding the naming rights for Joliet Route 66 Stadium may be somewhat premature. To be clear, there are no indications that such an agreement is not in the works, but the City of Joliet has not yet formally accepted a naming rights agreement to date. Plus, details of the agreement have not been released to the city council or the public. The agreement will have to be made public, after all, the City of Joliet owns Route 66 Stadium, not the Slammers baseball organization.

The announcement of the agreement was released on May 20 and read like it was a done deal. According to Section 18 of the AGREEMENT FOR THE LEASE AND OPERATION OF THE JOLIET ROUTE 66 STADIUM “the City shall own the naming rights in and to the Stadium.” The Team (Slammers) acts as the City’s agent for selling or licensing the naming rights, according to the lease. Since the City Council has not yet met to approve the agreement it is not official.

When City Manager Marty Shanahan was contacted last week regarding the announcement, he was unaware of any details of the agreement. The author of the Slammers press release, vice president of sales John Wilson, was also contacted for further information. He repeated the highlights of the release but would not give any information regarding the dollar amount of the agreement, citing it as “confidential information”. The same section of the lease cited above also specifies that all Naming Rights revenues after expenses are shared on a 50/50 basis with the Slammers organization.

The amount of revenue received for the naming rights cannot be confidential because the City Council must approve any agreement put forth by the Slammers organization. They just rent the place; they don’t own it. The Slammers pay $75,000 rent annually to Joliet. The Slammers also get all of the revenue generated from events held at the stadium and all the concession revenue. Splitting the naming rights revenue with the City effectively reduces the $75,000 rent fee the Slammers organization pays by their share of the naming rights revenue. It’s a real sweetheart deal and was deemed the worst lease agreement of any team in the Frontier League by Councilman Larry Hug when he voted no on its passage at last year’s September 18, City Council meeting.

Another part of the lease, Section 27, states that the city and team shall meet monthly to discuss and review team operations and other matters pertaining to the lease and use of the stadium. The last City Council Stadium Committee meeting was September 17, 2018, the day before the City Council approved the current lease for the stadium. That Committee is chaired by Councilman Pat Mudron and includes Council members Jan Quillman and Mike Turk. The committee used to be called the Baseball Committee and has a history of meeting infrequently. Many years ago, when a previous team occupied the stadium, it went 15 months without a meeting. It was then discovered the rent hadn’t been paid for over one year. How’s that for paying attention to taxpayer dollars. Government transparency at its best.

Joliet Route 66 Stadium, as its known today, has a long history of being a money pit. It has never generated sufficient revenue to cover even routine maintenance and infrastructure costs. It was originally built as a quality of life project for Joliet residents and that it would pay for itself over the long term. That hasn’t happened so far and there are no projections that will ever occur. The best we can do for the present is enjoy the venue’s events and watch some baseball. The price of admission to a game is affordable and you can have a hot dog and a beverage in the great outdoors on a sunny day. That is if it ever stops raining.

Stay tuned…

Contact Wayne at wayneswords@thetimesweekly.com