Baseball Owner Believes Denial of Expansion Opportunity in Foul Territory
In July 2015, the Washington Wild Things (Frontier League) filed suit in U.S. District Court over MKE Sports and Entertainment’s lease at Kokomo Municipal Stadium for the Kokomo Jackrabbits (Prospect League) claiming damages over the loss of the market after months of negotiations. Wild Things owner, Stuart A. Williams, has claimed damages because the Prospect League, through allegedly unlawful actions by MKE Sports and Entertainment head Mike Zimmerman, landed Kokomo, thus denying a Frontier League franchise that would have generated $50,000 in expansion fees. They also claim that the Wild Things were “materially harmed” by Zimmerman and others interfering with the Frontier League’s proposed development of the Kokomo baseball market in what they define as “a civil conspiracy.” Current Frontier League commissioner, Bill Lee, ended up fining those responsible a “substantial” amount at the time of the incident.
Although Lee imposed fines on the responsible parties, the suit also shows that the Wild Things ownership made several demands on the Frontier League since August 2014 to take legal action, but when the league refused to do so, Williams proceeded on his own. The suit also states that Zimmerman has an ownership interest in multiple baseball teams in another league, a violation of the Frontier League’s bylaws.
It was due to the breaking of these bylaws that Lee imposed the fines on MKE’s Frontier League team, the Rockford Aviators. However, Lee’s 44 page decision on the case is currently sealed. In addition to the fine, MKE Sports & Entertainment chose to terminate its managed service contract in June 2015 with the Rockford Aviators. Had the contract not been terminated, the Aviators could have been in danger of losing their membership in the Frontier League.
On Monday, August 14, 2017, a magistrate judge decided the Frontier League must allow Wild Things owner, Williams, to depose Lee, saying the league should not have denied him the opportunity. Although the league is only a nominal defendant in William’s lawsuit, Judge Lynch awarded what she called “modest sanctions” against the league. Although she ordered a deposition of the league commissioner to take place, she did deny William’s claim for certain fees associated with the deposition. The Judge was troubled by Williams’ decision to wait until the very end of a prior deposition of Lee to inform opposing counsel that he planned to ask the commissioner some questions as well. Lee had previously been deposed by Williams in a separate arbitration hearing for over two hours, and had been asked many questions pertaining to the present case. A motion for summary judgment by the Frontier League is currently pending.