Money woes may strike out Costner-owned ball club

August 11, 2011 (ZION, Ill.)

"We feel like we were lied to," said Lake County Fielders spokesperson Bernie DiMeo.

DiMeo says the growing controversy surrounding the team is all the City of Zion's fault, because they did not build the permanent ballpark they promised, forcing the team to start the season on a 32-game road trip.

"If the Lake County Fielders had known that this was going to be the result, they would have absolutely taken this year off, and said let's just built a stadium and back next year," said DiMeo.

City officials say the Fielders owe $185,000 in back rent for use of the temporary stadium dating back to the team's first season in 2010.

DiMeo admits the team has money problems.

Calls to the City of Zion seeking comment were not returned. In a prior statement, the city said: "The city has been pressured by the baseball team to complete construction of a permanent stadium. However, the city, the baseball team and the owner of the land have been unable to agree on a manner of funding the construction costs."

"It's kind of a shame to see," said Fielders fan Roger Whitmore. "It was good for the city of Zion."

The Fielders are owned by Rich Ehrenreich, who previously owned the now-defunct Schaumburg Flyers, and by actor Kevin Costner, who celebrated the team last year.

Since then, there have been several team defections over claims of unpaid wages, and on Thursday, the independent North American Baseball League eliminated the team for not showing up for a series in Hawaii. Team owners dispute the announcement.

The baseball team venture was supposed to be an economic boom for the Lake County area, still struggling financially.

"It's so good for this community to see the youngsters out there, to see the families that come out," said Greg Koeppen of the Lake County Convention Bureau.

It is unclear where the Fielders team will go from here, or what the City of Zion will do the salvage their investment.

Copyright © 2021 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.