Three days after padlocking Village West Stadium and evicting the Kansas City T-Bones, the Unified Government of Wyandotte County has agreed to enter a new relationship with an organization called Max Fun Entertainment LLC, which plans to buy the team.
Commissioners voted 9-1 on Thursday night to transfer the team’s ownership to Max Fun from the John Ehlert family, which owes the UG $700,000 in back rent and unpaid utility bills.
“With the stadium and what we’re going to do with changes in staffing and marketing, we think there’s a great opportunity to make this a successful and growing business,” Matt Perry of Topeka, who will become the T-Bones’ new president and move to Kansas City, told KCUR after the meeting.
The final price of the sale was undisclosed, and the deal must still be approved by the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball.
“We love the league and it’s a very strong league,” said Perry.
Max Fun will not be burdened with the Ehlert family’s unpaid bills. The UG will likely seek repayment through legal action. Perry, however, said Max Fun wants to settle the unpaid debts with those doing business with the T-Bones, such as vendors.
“It’s important to us to make those situations right on monies that are owed to them,” said Perry. “It’s part of our deal that we agree to take on.”
Mark Brandmeyer of Kansas City is Max Fun's principal owner, but he was absent from the Thursday night commission meeting (his son was playing a lacrosse match at the same time in Manhattan, Kansas).
Commissioner Ann Brandau-Murguia cast the lone dissenting vote. She said her vote was based more on the process than the prospective ownership group.
“I think there could have been more options had our government been more proactive in marketing this stadium through the normal RFP (request for proposal) process once we were alerted to the current owners’ financial situation,” she said during the meeting.
County Administrator Doug Bach told KCUR he’s confident that Max Fun is financially solvent to be in it for the long haul.
“I think when you see where you are with Mark Brandmeyer, also with the partners, and I really like the fact, too, that you had Matt Perry who came this evening,” said Bach. “He walks in the door with a lot of baseball experience.”
Perry has been connected with a business called National Sports Services, working nationally as a consultant with minor league operating groups in all sports.
Some members of the community expressed reservations about the ownership transfer. Kansas City, Kansas, resident Tscher Manck said the deteriorating relationship between the Ehlert family and the UG led to some mistrust about how the UG moves forward with business at Village West Stadium.
“They keep on making these STAR bond deals and deals where they’re paying companies to come here, when they (the companies) are going to make money here,” Manck said of the UG. “I don’t understand. We’re the ones being robbed.”
In 2013, the UG took over ownership of what was then known as CommunityAmerica Ballpark, using STAR bonds for the $5 million purchase. An additional $2 million were reserved for improvements at the stadium.
Bach said about $1 million for improvements was held back because the Ehlert family was not meeting its financial requirements. The UG now plans to use that money to upgrade the stadium.
Though the sale is expected to go through, Perry said the Ehlert family will see very little money.
“Unfortunately for them, it’s not a good financial ending,” said Perry.
Greg Echlin is a freelance sports reporter for KCUR 89.3.