1 month, 3 weeks ago by Bob Gough
The beginning of the Prospect League may have been the beginning of the end of the Quincy Gems.
Yesterday’s news of the Oakley-Lindsay Civic Center Board’s wish to sell the team and revelation of much larger financial losses to the tune of more than $76,000 in 2013 (far more than previously reported) raise serious doubts that there will be a team in 2015.
The OLC has committed to 2014 and says they will be making cuts and trying to ramp up sponsorship sales. This is pivotal because if you can’t set records in ticket sales, concession sales and corporate sponsorship sales when the team is on the brink, you never will.
The switch from the CICL to the Prospect League has also affected the team’s bottom line. The old Central Illinois Collegiate League used to receive financial support from Major League Baseball. The Prospect League, being a for-profit organization, doesn’t receive that assistance.
The longer travel has also been a factor, but it was softened with the split into divisions to reduce road trips. When Quincy plays Hannibal or Springfield, it’s a lot easier than if they played West Virginia on a more frequent basis.
With the Prospect League wanting $175,000 for a new franchise, the OLC Board has to recognize keeping the team here is going to require a massive hometown discount. The Prospect League, if they want to keep a strong franchise in the league, needs to see that as well. But with the league set to garner 3 percent of any sale, will they be willing to do so?
Gems General Manager Rob Ebbing said attendance was strong last year and that it was the decrease in the corporate sponsorships that led to the deficit. That should be easy to remedy if the team is truly something the community wants.
So here’s the formula to save the Gems:
*Allow a new owner to buy the team at a reduced rate and allow them to make annual payments on the team for three to five years (starting this year), but the owner takes over starting this year (this reduces that large overhead number coming from OLC staff). The best way to ensure the team stays is to sell it for $1, but it doesn't sound like that's going to happen.
*Get the owner involved NOW in the season ticket sales and corporate sponsorships for next year and contract those corporate sponsorships for the duration of the of contract for transferring the team to the new owner. This also allows them to get acclimated to the process.
*The new owner has to be a master promoter and with this as his/her only focus, needs to beat the drum all winter long and come up with new and fresh promotions. Try to work with the Cardinals or Cubs to bring in player for baseball card signings and other events that will benefit the Gems and benefit baseball in general. Show up at college and high school baseball games this spring to promote the Gems and get people in the seats.
It won’t be easy, but it can be done if the community really wants it.