General Sports and Entertainment, LLC of Rochester, Michigan announced today an agreement to sell the Fort Wayne Wizards baseball club to an ownership group comprised of baseball fans with an outstanding reputation for community leadership. The Wizards, the San Diego Padres Single-A affiliate of the Midwest League, is being sold to Hardball Capital, a group headed by Atlanta, Georgia real estate developer Chris Schoen and attorney Jason Freier.
“We are baseball lovers and have been searching for over two years for the right opportunity in Minor League Baseball,” said Frier. “The excellent support the team has enjoyed from the fans of Fort Wayne, as well as the strong front office assembled by owner Andy Appleby and General Manager Mike Nutter, let us know we had found the right team. Andy Appleby and General Sports and Entertainment, LLC, along with the entire Wizards’ staff, should be recognized for their tremendous success, both at the stadium and in the community.”
Schoen added that, “we were immediately impressed by Fort Wayne. We look at the expansion and success of Memorial Coliseum, the incredible fan support the local sports teams and entertainment venues enjoy and the plan to continue to improve Fort Wayne’s downtown, and see an opportunity for continued growth and success with the Wizards organization.”
The transaction has the strong backing of the San Diego Padres. According to General Manager and Executive Vice President Kevin Towers, “the shared commitment to excellence made by both the San Diego Padres and the Fort Wayne Wizards over the course of a seven-year affiliation has been a substantial one. The entire Padres’ organization has always felt embraced by the Wizards’ staff and their ownership group, and the great baseball fans in and around Fort Wayne. We welcome the opportunity to build on this foundation with Chris and Jason, both on the field and in the community, well into the future.”
“We are excited about the 2006 season, and it’s business as usual in the front office,” said Wizards General Manager Mike Nutter. “We anticipate 2006 being one of the best in franchise history and we have the full support of the new ownership group as we move forward. Hardball Capital is committed to, not only continuing the terrific fan experience that the Wizards have provided fans, but to actively improving that experience. As the first of what will be many improvements, the Wizards will be adding a new speed pitch display in right field. This display will be sponsored by Hicksville Bank.”
“Fort Wayne has embraced the Wizards since we began managing the team in 1999,” said Andy Appleby, Founder and President of General Sports and Entertainment, LLC. “The value and entertainment that the fans of the Wizards have come to expect will continue. We know from our time with them that Chris and Jason are tremendous fans of the game, and we have no doubt that the Fort Wayne community and the San Diego Padres will be well served by Chris, Jason and the Wizards new ownership.”
This purchase is subject to the approval of the Midwest League and Minor League Baseball (The National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues), and the review of the Baseball Office of the Commissioner. Hardball Capital and General Sports and Entertainment, LLC will act in concert to see that the necessary approvals are obtained as quickly as possible.