Nueces County Attorney Laura Garza Jimenez last week sent a demand letter to John Bryant, part owner of the Coastal Bend Thunder, asking the team to pay more than $140,000 stemming from its departure from Fairgrounds Field.
In the April 20 letter, Jimenez broke down the $142,904 being sought by the county, with $27,402 due in rent and utilities. The county is also asking for an additional $17,433 to be paid to a local company, Servpro of Corpus Christi East, for cleaning services to the interior offices of the stadium, while another $58,500 is being sought to pay for renovation work to the stadium's field by Frost, Texas-based Angela Sports Fields.
Estimates in the amount of $26,500 were also provided for work to be done by Nueces County Community Services/Inland Parks employees, which includes power washing the stadium, graffiti removal in the facility's bathrooms and outer wall, and cleaning and repainting clubhouse locker rooms, according to the letter.
Those county employees have already conducted some trash pick-up and landscaping work at the stadium, which came at a cost of $2,148 to the county, Jimenez wrote.
An additional $10,920 was paid by the county for cleaning and repair services, in addition to various supplies and equipment, according to receipts attached to the demand letter.
Precinct 3 County Commissioner Oscar Ortiz on Monday said he felt the amount being sought by the county from the team was fair and in line with the agreement the club signed with the county.
"I think we went into this arrangement in good faith and they went into this in good faith, but there were some things that should have been maintained that weren't," he said.
Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Pusley said he was disappointed that the county now finds itself in a situation where its multi-million dollar baseball stadium doesn't have a team to occupy it. The facility's location, he added, may be the biggest hindrance to any potential success for future baseball leagues or teams, since it is located in a rural area.
"I just feel that stadium was built in the wrong place," Pusley said. "I think any minor league team is going to struggle to make it out there because of the remote location. Those are just the facts of life."
Pusley reiterated his stance that he would not support any future leases with minor league baseball teams unless there was a sound financial plan in place that would limit the possibility of having clubs leave while owing the county money. A similar situation occurred with the Coastal Bend Aviators in 2008, when the county had to sue that team and its owner, Horn Chen, to recoup $114,639 in late rent and repair costs.
"I just think it's unfortunate for that field to sit there vacant, but that may be what's best for everybody," Pusley said.
Ortiz said he would like to see the county consider different ideas in order to make use of the stadium. A local soccer team, the Corpus Christi Fuel, has played games at the stadium in front of relatively large crowds, he added.
"We need to do some thinking outside the box," Ortiz said.
Bryant and the Thunder, named in the letter as Coastal Bend Professional Baseball Club LLC, have 30 days to resolve the payment with Nueces County, Jimenez said.
If not, the county will consider filing a lawsuit to recoup the costs it outlined in the demand letter, she added.
County officials terminated the Thunder's lease earlier this year after the team failed to meet a Jan. 15 deadline set by the Nueces County Commissioners Court to pay money it owed for rent and utilities.
The Thunder is the third independent baseball team in the past five years to call Fairgrounds Field home, with the Corpus Christi Beach Dawgs and Coastal Bend Aviators preceding it.