It won't be the Chicago Cubs, but a new baseball team is coming to Rosemont.
The village's board of trustees today approved funding for a new $55 million, 6,300-seat minor league ballpark near O'Hare Airport and a 20-year lease agreement with an ownership group that will start a new independent league franchise there in 2018.
Work is set to begin in the next 30 days on preparing the site for the venue, which was originally proposed by Rosemont Mayor Brad Stephens a year ago to go on a 10-acre piece of vacant land just west of Interstate 294.
It's part of the same space that Stephens offered the Cubs for free in 2013 to build a stadium amid stalled negotiations with the city of Chicago over the team owners' plan to renovate Wrigley Field.
That dispute was eventually resolved and the Cubs stayed in the Friendly Confines. But Stephens pushed ahead with plans to add baseball to the vibrant sports and entertainment district that has developed over the past decade near the intersection of the Tri-State Tollway and Interstate 90.
The key to pushing the ballpark deal through was finding a team to play there. That's where Rosemont Entertainment Group came in, a new venture led by two former NBA, NHL and Major League Soccer team executives that is starting a new franchise in the 12-team American Association of Independent Professional Baseball.
The managing partner of the new franchise is Shawn Hunter, whose 20-plus-year career in professional sports includes stints as executive vice president of the Colorado Avalanche and Denver Nuggets and president of the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes. Hunter is currently CEO of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, a 518-mile cycling race through Colorado.
Joining him as a principal investor is former Coyotes and New York York Islanders co-owner Steven Gluckstern, who is now the CEO of Santa Fe, N.M.-based neurotechnology company Rio Grande Neurosciences.
The new team still needs the approval of the Durham, N.C.-based league to join in the months ahead. But it plans to play its first season in 2018, squaring off against other AAIPB teams like the St. Paul Saints and the Gary SouthShore RailCats.
"The new baseball stadium will bring a whole new level of family entertainment offerings to Rosemont's visitors," Stephens said in a statement. "Our partners on this project are the best in their field and will bring an unparalleled level of expertise to the project."
The village will pay for the stadium through the sale of bonds that will be retired with tax-increment financing revenue from the development.
Hunter said the opportunity to start a franchise in a state-of-the-art ballpark tucked into an area rife with entertainment options and restaurants was too good to pass up.
In addition to the nearby Allstate Arena and Rivers Casino, amenities in the cluster near the proposed ballpark include the Fashion Outlets of Chicago, restaurants and a movie theater in the so-called MB Financial Park, as well as a sports dome next to the ballpark site and the neighboring Rosemont Stadium, home of the Chicago Bandits professional softball team.
The village board today also green-lit construction of a new mixed-use development just south of the stadium that it is calling "The Pearl District."
That development will be home to Rosemont's first boutique hotel, a new five-story, 165-room venue called "The Rose" that is set to open in spring 2018. It will also feature two restaurants and the fifth Dave & Buster's location in the Chicago market.
"I think this may be, if not the best minor league ballpark location in the country, one of the top three," Hunter said. "It is rare that a city has as successful a track record in operating venues as the village of Rosemont."
While the new minor league franchise would be a tenant at the publicly owned facility, the agreement between Rosemont and the franchise will go beyond a rental fee, he said.
Rosemont Entertainment Group will also share revenue from nonbaseball events at the stadium such as concerts, food festivals, corporate events and other sporting events it will be designed to host, such as outdoor hockey.
The stadium will include six skyboxes, a club level with space for up to 200 guests and a 1,200-space parking deck adjacent to the stadium.
Hunter said the team will begin looking for a naming-rights partner for the ballpark and aims to sign on eight to 10 core sponsorship deals with Chicago businesses.
He also plans to recruit former Chicago Major League Baseball players to get involved with the franchise to help raise its profile. That's similar to what the now-defunct Chicago Rush Arena Football League franchise did during its heyday, bringing on former Bears head coach Mike Ditka as a partner for marketing purposes.
"This is going to be a big-time entertainment platform that is built around families and family (friendly) pricing," Hunter said.
For Rosemont, the new team will help fill a gap soon to be left by DePaul University, which is moving its men's basketball games to a new arena next to McCormick Place next year after 37 seasons at Allstate Arena.
The village is still the home of the Chicago Wolves American Hockey League team and the WNBA's Chicago Sky.
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