Local investors eye Thunder Bay Border Cats takeover
Northwoods League has issued termination notice to current team owners over unpaid bills
A group of Thunder Bay residents is hoping to become the new owners of the Border Cats baseball team, and keep the Northwoods League squad in the city.
The league has issued a termination notice to Superior Baseball Club Inc., the American group that has owned the Border Cats since 2016, Northwoods League chairman Dick Radatz, Jr., told CBC News on Monday.
"They are financially insolvent, and they're not paying their bills," Radatz said. "You sign an affiliation agreement when you join the Northwoods League, and we expect you to pay your bills that you have to vendors in the local communities when you operate the team."
"When you don't do that, you breach your affiliation agreement with us, and they have done exactly that."
Representatives of Superior Baseball Club didn't return a request for comment on Monday. However, Radatz said the group still has time to rectify things.
"They've got less than a month to cure the breach," he said. "If that's not cured, then the league gets the team back, and then we have to make some decisions as to how we go forward."
Radatz said in that case, there's no guarantee the Border Cats would remain in Thunder Bay.
But a local group is stepping in, hoping to attract enough investors to take over the team and keep it in the city.
"We were looking for 25 [local investors]," said Bryan Graham, spokesperson for the local group. "We'd be happy, probably, with a number even just less than that."
Graham said the they're looking for about $10,000 from investors who want to join the group. About 10 to 15 investors have signed on, he said, but there will be more opportunities to bring investors on board as the next season approaches.
"We're really just looking right now to sink some capital investment into the team," he said. "There's a lot of things that we want to do in our plan, A to enhance the ballpark, and B to have better promotions and make it a better game experience for everybody at the stadium."
"Obviously, putting a winning product on the field is going to play a factor in that, and we have some really good leads on what we think would be a great field manager ot take over the operation and add some more Canadian talent to the club, as well."
Graham said the deadline is looming, however, and the group wants to have its paperwork into the Northwoods League by Friday.
"There's league meetings coming up in a couple of weeks in Madison, Wisconsin, that Thunder Bay would have to be represented at," he said. "Obviously, they're starting to work towards 2019 and their plan, including league scheduling."
"We're coming kind of down to the 11th hour here, so we were just hoping to throw it out there this week that we are looking for some more people that are hopefully interested in getting involved in the operation," Graham said.
Radatz said he hopes the team stays in Thunder Bay.
"Very frankly, we've had incompetent ownership up there for quite some time, and they have not run the franchise properly," he said. "It's severely under-performed, and it's a shame that the people of Canada had to experience this incompetency, truthfully."
A 'malady of incompetency'
"There's no question that Thunder Bay is a vibrant, growing community, with a lovely baseball park that should be able to support this level of baseball with very little problem," Radatz said. "We have teams in our league that survive with one-tenth of the population that Thunder Bay has, so it's just been a malady of incompetency on the part of the ownership groups that have come through Thunder Bay."
Radatz said he believes the key to running a successful team in the city is getting the proper people in the front office.
"I've voiced that to these local gentlemen," he said. "'You guys are not going to run it, you guys are not capable of running it, you need to hire people who are capable of running it.'"
"We, and our board of directors, are going to insist on that going forward."