There weren’t too many people in the stands for the final game of the Slammers’ championship series, but that was OK because the Slammers weren’t there at all.
That the game drew anyone at all was kind of amazing. The Slammers were on the road in Washington, Pennsylvania, and the few dozen fans who turned up were there to watch the game on the outfield video screen.
The crowd may have been small but it was enthusiastic, cheering heartily when the Slammers put up two runs in the second. They went on to win, 4-2, to take the Frontier League crown back to Joliet.
The Slammers won twice that night. Four blocks away, the City Council took a vote on whether to approve another lease for the Slammers at Joliet Route 66 Stadium. Slammers owner Nick Semaca wanted a five-year lease and he got it. The vote went 7-1.
The one vote against approving the lease was cast by City Council member Larry Hug. Hug thought the $75,000 a year the Slammers will pay in rent wasn’t enough.
“We have a lease that we were informed last night in executive session is the worst in the league,” Hug said.
If Hug’s right then it sort of looks like the Slammers did all right for themselves. But then again, time was running out. There were less than two weeks left before the current lease expired. If the Slammers and the city weren’t able to hammer out an agreement, there was the possibility the Frontier League wouldn’t let them back in next season. Which is kind of ridiculous considering they just won the championship.
Bouncing the champions from the league before they had a chance to defend their title certainly would have looked bad, but the Slammers coming back is going to cost some people a lot of money.
Without the Slammers returning next season, the city-owned stadium might sit vacant, at least when they weren’t hosting all the soccer and lacrosse games they tore out the grass and installed $1.6 million worth of artificial turf for. And you know what happens when things sit vacant around here.
Just look over on Collins Street at the Old Joliet Prison. The state shut the prison down and the next thing you know there was a parade of trespassers sneaking in and out of the place to break things and set fires. It got so bad the city had to pay police officers overtime to guard the abandoned prison day and night.
A month ago, the city manager and the police chief said they expected this overtime to cost $800,000 by the end of the year. A couple of weeks later, the number drastically shrank to $500,000.
The city manager based this greatly reduced projected expense on the prison now having electricity so it can be lit up at night and the Joliet Area Historical Museum finally giving guided tours, which not only also raises money, but apparently discourages trespassers.
So all it took was electric light and some guided tours and the city cut the projected police over time by nearly 40 percent.
Saving $300,000 is tremendous. Still, $500,000 seems like an awful lot of money to spend on guarding an abandoned building for less than a year. But if that’s what it takes, then that’s what the city needs to spend. And even more money could have been made by the police if the Slammers ended up getting tossed out of the Frontier League, in the interest of keeping vandals and firebugs from getting inside the stadium.
Whether the Slammers stay or not, it might be a good idea to institute around-the-clock police protection at the stadium anyway, when you consider what happened just last year.
In May, right before the start of the 2017 season, two brothers, Hunter Carlstrom of Joliet and William Carlstrom of Rockford, made their way into the stadium, broke into a concession stand and stole about $1,000 worth of liquor and beer.
Hunter, 31, got three years in prison for it. He still is locked up in Vandalia Correctional Center but is scheduled to get out in a few weeks.
William, 24, was released from jail the day he pleaded guilty but violated his probation and got locked up again.
This crime was committed even though the stadium had electricity. So it’s obvious they should have police officers there all the time to stop something like this from ever happening again.
[Eric Ginnard - email@example.com]
It’s the same as with the schools, which all need to have police officers in them. That’s only supposed to cost $6.3 million – and it includes parochial schools at no extra cost. And they might even get it lower if they start giving tours or leaving the lights on at night.
• Joe Hosey is the editor of The Herald-News. You can reach him at 815-280-4094, at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JoeHosey.