January 9th, 2008

New Deal Reached with Cougars to Get Stadium Renovation Project Moving

By William Presecky
Chicago Tribune

The owners of the Kane County Cougars have been granted permission to sell the naming rights to the minor-league team’s home field in Geneva under a new licensing deal expected to clear the way for an estimated $10.5 million expansion and renovation this year.

The newly revised, multiyear agreement with the Cougars Baseball Partnership was approved Tuesday by the Kane County Forest Preserve District, which owns Elfstrom Stadium and the surrounding events center on Kirk Road south of Illinois Highway 38.

The approval sets the stage for the long-awaited start of some improvements to the ballpark that match the amenities of newer baseball venues like those in Schaumburg and Joliet, said Forest Preserve Commission President John Hoscheit (R-St. Charles).

The goal is to begin the renovation following the end of the team’s 2008 season, and work would be complete in time for the 2009 season, said Hoscheit.

The renovation project had stalled after even the lowest bids received by the district far exceeded an original construction estimate of about $5 million.

District officials have been conferring with team owners for the last few months on ways to keep the renovation project on track despite a “low bid” that topped $12 million.

Construction plans call for the addition of a concourse overhang, upper-deck suites, increased seating and expanded service and office amenities to the 17-year-old stadium.

Hoscheit said the district and team officials “believe it could be done for $10.5 million.”

Under the agreement reached with the Cougars, the forest district will cover $8 million in improvements, up from the $5 million to be derived originally from the sale of revenue bonds. Team owners, meanwhile, have agreed to increase the annual fee, ranging from $1.1 million to $1.3 million a year, that they will pay the district through 2028. The increase will come from the team’s sale of naming rights to the ballpark.

The team also has guaranteed to pay an estimated $2.5 million before the district approves a construction contract.

Efforts are under way to obtain a $400,000 state grant to help offset the cost of the project’s architectural fees, Hoscheit said. In addition to installing a plaque honoring Elfstrom, the former forest district president credited with bringing minor-league baseball to Kane County in 1991, the district plans to rename the events center in his honor.

“I’m happy that everything is done and it gives us an opportunity to get the ballpark finished and give the fans what they need,” said Cougars general manager Jeff Sedivy.

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