Peter Ferro Jr., the son of a prominent Joliet construction family, is the owner of the Jackhammers. On Wednesday Ferro faced a Joliet City Council that wants over $200,000 in back rent paid. Ferro wants a break on the bill, saying otherwise the Jackhammers will not be able to play.
The Joliet town manager says poor management and the bad economy are to blame.
"The Jackhammers have taken a bit of a different approach and that has caused some bad will in the community with their vendors and fans and that's why this city council is stepping in now to try and rebuild the relationship," said Tom Thanas, Joliet manager.
The team was once in good standing with officials and played in the city-built Silver Cross Stadium. Opening in 2002, the crowds often hit the capacity of 4500 seats. But getting to playoffs wasn't enough to get fans in the stands. The Jackhammers are in their third year straight of declining attendance.
"Well, I think we saw fan base drop as far as it ticket sales, sponsorships, special promotions that didn't work. There were a lot of things that went into the problems that we see today, and it's like a ball game. You have got to be able to respond in the middle of the game. I don't think ownership responded in the middle of the game like it needed to," said Thanas. "It was lack of response to a crisis. We all know during a crisis leaders need to step up."
There is talk that a new owner may be prepared to buy the team from Ferro, something the city favors. Jan Quillman is on the city's baseball committee and wants baseball to remain in the city
"Something has to change, because, you know, when your creditors are knocking at the door, you need to pay your bills. Something's gotta give," said Jan Quillman.
Joliet has sent players to the big leagues and has a strong tradition in America's pastime.
"Tough economic times that we are facing right now, it is hard on the city as well. But it seems when things are needed or the city wants done, there's always money to be found," said Ricky Coleman, Joliet baseball fan.
Ferro said he lost over $1.6 million over the last two years even after putting $800,000 of his own money back into the team.