Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Creditors continue to file against Florence's baseball team



By Brenna R. Kelly, Enquirer staff writer
and William Croyle, Enquirer contributor

FLORENCE - Liens against the Florence Freedom rose to nearly $3 million Tuesday as three more stadium contractors claimed they haven't been paid.

Two electrical companies and a concrete company filed liens in the Boone County Clerk's Office totaling $1.1 million.

IN DEBT
Florence Freedom faces eight liens
• $140,526 Richards Electrical Supply
•  $522,656 Kraft Electrical Contracting
•  $528,910 Tru Wall Concrete
•  $3,260 McSwain Carpets
•  $843,856 Paul Michels and Sons
•  $40,364 Central Acoustical Supply House
•  $267,950 Georgia Golf Construction
•  $581,464 JTF Construction
Last week, five companies filed liens claiming the Freedom's parent company, Northern Kentucky Professional Baseball, owes $1.7 million.

The total claimed debt on the unfinished stadium is now $2.9 million. In two weeks, the team will also owe the city of Florence $197,617, the first payment on the team's 30-year lease.

The debt is a violation of that lease, and if it's not paid within 26 days, the city could evict the team. from the stadium.

If that happens, according to the lease, team owners Connie and Chuck Hildebrant would have to pay for the completion of Champion Window Field.

Among the unfinished parts of the stadium is the lawn seating along the baselines. The sections are large piles of dirt instead of grassy sitting areas.

During the Freedom's Tuesday game, the announcer told fans: "Please stay out of the construction zones down the left and right field lines."

Stadium workers also are apparently complaining about not being scheduled enough hours.

On Tuesday, the stadium's staffing contractor, Keystone Event Staffing, posted this message on its Web site:

"We apologize for the lack of hours and ask people to please bear with us at the stadium nears completion. Our direction is taken directly from the ownership and (general manager)," the message said. "Things should improve and more positions and hours will become available as additional concessions and the upper deck are completed and opened for business."

The site also reminded staff, "do not speak with reporters about team/employment issues."

Employees were instructed to refer reporters to Mike Cosentino, Keystone's director of sports staffing for the St. Louis-based company. Reached Tuesday afternoon Cosentino said, "I have nothing to say to you," before hanging up.

A phone number on the Web site that staffers with questions were directed to call was disconnected.

Florence Mayor Diane Whalen said the city was still hoping to meet with the team's ownership group this week, but no meeting had been scheduled.

The attorney for team owners Connie and Chuck Hildebrant, Dennis Buckley, could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Frontier League Commissioner Bill Lee also could not be reached.

The latest liens were for electrical and concrete work.

Kraft Electrical Contracting said it is owed $522,656, Richards Electrical Supply said it is owed $140,526 and Tru Wall Concrete said it is owed $528,910.

At Tuesday's game, Peggy Curry, of Union, who brought her two kids and their two cousins, said she hoped the team's debt does not mean the end of baseball in Florence.

"It would be a disappointment if they folded, because this is something different to do," said Curry. "It's very affordable and is a nice, family atmosphere."

Jackie Hartke, of Union, who was attending her first Freedom game, had not heard about the financial troubles.

"I guess this could be my first and last game," she said. "My husband's been dying to come. I guess I should tell him to hurry."

"It's reasonably priced, and if they get kids interested," she said, "I think it should be able to succeed in this area."

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E-mail bkelly@enquirer.com




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