Silver Knights still on market
Once again, it seems that Colorado and New England is not a good mix.
According to an industry source the handshake agreement that owner Drew Weber had to sell the Silver Knights to the the Colorado-based Zephyr Bay Sports Partners LLC, headed by former collegiate hockey player and NHL draft choice Bill Stewart, has fallen through.
Now there are two possible scenarios: One, that Weber continue to own the Silver Knights for the upcoming season, and two, that the group in Lowell, Mass., that is reportedly buying Weber’s other team, the Red Sox-affiliated Lowell Spinners (Class A), will reverse course and buy the Silver Knights as well.
Sources say that a purchase and sales agreement between Weber and a Lowell group involving the Spinners could be signed "any day now." Thus it’s a likely given that Weber will eventually sell the Silver Knights.
While not completely confirming that the deal between Weber and Zephyr Bay Sports is no more, current Spinners and Silver Knights president Tim Bawmann says he is going to try to speak with the brokers handling the sale and see if they can generate any interest in including the Silver Knights in the final agreement.
"It just makes sense for everyone involved," Bawmann said. "I’m trying to encourage them, through the brokers, to take a second look at Nashua."
Why didn’t the Lowell group
include Nashua originally? Bawmann said it was "bad timing."
"Colorado approached the (Futures) League about what franchises were available," Bawmann said, "and they were told, ‘Well, Nashua’s available.’ "
Bawmann said that the process for that FCBL deal was underway when the group interested in the Spinners surfaced.
Other sources have said that the Silver Knights losing their connection to the Spinners through separate sales was a negative for the Colorado group because of Lowell’s resources. Also, the group was reconsidering the idea of being long distance owners.
It should be business as usual for both clubs this season, anyway. There is a long minor league approval process that will stretch over a period of months with the Spinners, and the Silver Knights will no doubt be relying on help from Lowell since the mechanisms are already in place to do so.
One technicality that has to be addressed, Bawmann said, is Nashua’s lease/concession agreement. Back in late December, the club was securing a three-month extension of its current agreement with the city. That was with the idea that a sale would be completed by the spring and a new lease with the new owners would be drawn up. The current agreement with Weber calls for a series of mutual annual one-year renewals.
"That’s something I will be talking to the city about in the next few days," Bawmann said.
Any uncertainty over a sale does not seem to have any effect on day-to-day operations – or the business community’s willingness to be involved with the team.
"It hasn’t even been a blip on the radar," Bawmann said. "We’ve got two or three significant new partners (sponsors) on board."
Silver Knights General Manager Ronnie Wallace is still operating as usual.
"We’re still going down to Lowell for weekly staff meetings," Wallace said. "And we’ve had tremendous corporate sales for January. We’ve gotten some new sponsors, and some current sponsors are spending more money with us than they have in the past."
Wallace said the image of the team in the community has been enhanced over the last couple of years. This evidently is bearing fruit, as the team is ahead of last year’s corporate sales pace despite any uncertainty with regard to ownership.
"All of our current partners know what we have, what we do," Wallace said. "They know what we do in the community. As long as the team is here, they’ll support us."
A lot of this is due to the constant off-season presence of Wallace and business manager Cheryl Lindner in the area.
"We’ve established ourselves, and that’s certainly making it easier this year than last year. We already have people constantly asking us when they can buy tickets."
Bawmann said that as he’s further examined the books the team broke even last year.
"I’m really encouraged with what’s happened the last two or three weeks (in sales)," he said. "If it’s a sign of things to come, I think it’s going to be a pretty significant year."
A possible by-product of the potential sale of both the Spinners and the Silver Knights is the loss of personnel, and the first major domino to fall is former vice president of communications/marketing/promotions Jon Goode.
Goode, along with Bawmann, urged Weber to help create the Silver Knights and the Futures Collegiate League nearly six years ago. He resigned from both teams to focus on his sports memorabilia business, KBK Sports, which has opened up an office in downtown Nashua. KBK specializes in silent auctions for charitable causes.
Goode, whose promotions with the Spinners and Silver Knights drew national attention, will remain as a consultant to both franchises, and he expects to still be a presence with the Knights.
"I’m trying to work something out with Nashua," Goode said. "I want to be involved and the city wants me to stay involved. I hope to still be there, if it’s up to me. I can still be there, be creative, still have fun."
Goode had been with the Spinners for 18 years. But with changes looming, he saw this as the perfect time to venture out on his own.
"I had been there a long time," he said. "I’ve been very loyal to Drew, Tim, the whole staff. But this allows me to pursue some of the things I want to pursue."
"Jon’s been the creative genius behind both clubs" Bawmann said. "I’m not surprised. He’s been running his business the last few years and you could see it was taking off, and then there’s always a lot of uncertainty when a team changes hands."
"He’s going to be closer to us now," Wallace said. "I know he’s going to try to maintain some status with the Silver Knights. He’s such an asset to our organization, that’s pretty obvious."
The Silver Knights last year held a season ticket holder event a night or two prior to the start of the season at Holman Stadium that included the players being introduced to a small crowd.
This year, they’re taking it a step further with an Alumni Game on the evening of the Memorial Day holiday – 7:05 p.m. on Monday, May 30.
"We tried to do it at the last second last year, but it was too late and it just wasn’t going to happen," Wallace said. "We didn’t have the resources to contact everybody."
But this year, Wallace worked on a database with former Silver Knights players’ contact information.
The Silver Knights will open up the season two nights later in Portsmouth vs. Seacoast, and, as Wallace said, "That Monday is usually the day of the first workout. So we’ll have the team take batting practice and then we’ll follow that up with a game."
The game will be free for season ticket holders, but the team will charge non-season ticket holders $5. They’re still not sure if the game will be a full nine innings.
"That will depend on what’s available for pitching," Wallace said.
Former players who have said they will return for the game include Merrimack’s Tom Hudon, who pitched the team to its only playoff win in the last two seasons; former second baseman Logan Gillis; former pitchers Dan Kinnon and John Coughlin; and former outfielder Jimmy Ricoy. Lefty pitcher Chris Goode who resides in Texas, has indicated he will try to return as well.
There’s been one time change to the home schedule for this year. The Sunday, July 3 game will start at 6:45 p.m., rather than the usual 5 p.m. Sunday start, so there can be post-game fireworks for the Fourth of July weekend. Usually the Silver Knights have post-game fireworks on the eve of the Fourth, as they play away at Pittsfield the next day.
The Silver Knights are on the lookout for the following:
-Host families. Often this can make or break the opportunity to sign a player who is from another part of the country. The club will be able to inform prospective host families on what it may provide as an incentive.
-Interns. The team is currently getting the jump on getting its staff together for the season (interns usually begin soon after the college year ends).
-Kids Club Members. Youths 12-and-under who are members of the team’s Kids Club are admitted free of charge to games. Usually the info needed to join are parents names, email address and age.
For more information on all of the above, visit nashuasilverknights.com.