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Old 12-21-2008, 11:17 PM
ajbrandt1 ajbrandt1 is offline
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Join Date: Dec 2008
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Default More trouble for the ULB

Looks like more trouble ULB is in even more trouble. Seems like the league itself is completely crumbling. Teams like San Angelo and Amarillo are profitable by themselves, but it's obvious that the league is financially in the tanker. Story below.

ULB owner 'surprised'

He's 'in contact' with bank on ballpark auction

By Paul A. Anthony (Contact)
Saturday, December 20, 2008



The owner of United League Baseball said he was surprised to learn this week that a local bank has begun proceedings to place Foster Field, the home ballpark of the San Angelo Colts, up for auction.

Brad Wendt, managing partner of the independent league that owns the Colts, said he is in discussions with San Angelo Banking Center, a branch of the First National Bank of Sonora, about the bank's filing Monday of a notice to hold the auction Jan. 6.

"We're surprised they took that route on a relationship that's seven years old," Wendt said. "We're in contact with them."

Nevertheless, questions continue to surround the future of the franchise. It saw record attendance and concession sales and an appearance in the playoffs last year, but is owned by a league that has seen an increasing amount of turmoil in recent months.

The ballclub missed a $6,000 loan payment earlier this month, leading to the bank's action, which Wendt said took place 10 days after the payment deadline.

The league also has failed to maintain the field in preparation for the Angelo State University baseball team, as an agreement with the university stipulates.

"The current management has not maintained the field," said ASU President Joseph C. Rallo. "The restrooms are basically not usable anymore. ... This has been going on for many, many, many months."

Wendt disputed Rallo's interpretation of how ULB should fulfill its contract with the university, owner of the land on which the ballpark sits, and characterized the league's finances as healthy.

Yet he acknowledged that the league recently contacted the roughly 100 local investors in the Colts and essentially asked them for more money, and that if fundraising efforts there fail, the league will take other steps to raise additional capital.

Wendt also declined to say whether the league has made the outstanding debt payment, except that he remains in touch with John Owens, who has been named the substitute trustee of the facility as the bank's proceedings continue.

"We're in constant contact, and we're going to address this professionally," Wendt said. As for the amount of money the league needs from Colts investors, "That number is really internal to the owners."

ULB will likely hold an emergency teleconference between the league and the Colts' local investors in the wake of San Angelo Banking Center's actions, Wendt said, to determine why the loan payment was not made.

"There's internal discussion among the investors about who is liable for the payment," he said. "That obligation was not met by one or two of the investors."

News of the auction surprised city leaders, who feared for the future of the baseball team, which has proven popular since its inception in 1999.

The league has given no notice that it needs assistance or is in financial trouble, said Kathy Keane, executive director of the San Angelo Development Corp.

Likewise, San Angelo Chamber of Commerce President Phil Neighbors said he had heard nothing about potential problems with the Colts before hearing news of the foreclosure Thursday night.

"I'm still getting educated on it," Neighbors said. "I hope the issues are resolved. It is important to us from an economic sense."

Despite the assurances from Wendt about the league's financial state, he acknowledged that league operations have been hindered by a lawsuit filed by two ULB cofounders who say he tried to merge two of the league's six franchises, including the Colts, into another independent league while abandoning the other four.

Colts General Manager Mike Babcock said the team's operations are in "kind of in a holding pattern" while the lawsuit works through the courts, and Wendt said the litigation has placed "a cloud over the situation."

ASU, meanwhile, says it is watching the proceedings carefully, concerned that a change in ownership could affect its baseball team, which also uses Foster Field.

The deed under which any owner must operate requires that ASU be allowed to use the facilities, Rallo said.

"We would expect the new ownership to honor those rights," he said.

ASU will not seek to win the ballpark if it does go to the auction block, Rallo said, adding that the university's financial priorities during the economic downturn are maintaining scholarship funds and increasing enrollment.

As it is, he said, the university is rehabilitating the field after the league failed to maintain it as specified in the lease.

Wendt rejected that assertion, saying ULB was not adequately reimbursed for its work on the field in 2007 and is now adhering to the minimum standard allowed by the lease - that the field be kept in a "safe condition."

He did not respond, however, to Rallo's statement that ULB also missed a $1,000 monthly lease payment to the university this month.

Despite the questions enveloping his league and its San Angelo franchise, Wendt said the Colts will play baseball in San Angelo in 2009.

"We finally turned the corner to be profitable," he said. "We're going into the season. Financially, ULB is very strong."
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