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Blackberry Township officials ponder options for McNair field lease

BLACKBERRY TOWNSHIP – Blackberry Township officials hope to renegotiate a lease for McNair field so more than 700 youth baseball and football players can continue to use it – and then they plan to try to buy the five acres for their permanent use.

Township officials said at their meeting Tuesday that they will schedule a special meeting possibly Jan. 2 to discuss the issues and then meet with the property owners before their first regular meeting of the new year on Jan. 14.

“I think we should have a meeting, come up with a decision and make them an offer,” township trustee Harley Veldhuizen said.

“If they are not interested in selling, then we would do this [lease] as a short-term objective and then move toward acquisition of other property – possibly the property immediately south,” township trustee Jim Michels said.

The lease for the five acres the youths have played on for 10 years expired April 30, Supervisor Dennis Ryan said, before he took office May 20.

The lease with property owners Transmission Relay Corporation of Burr Ridge, charged the township $1 a year for the youths to use the property, officials said, but none of the rent checks were ever cashed.

The low rate for the lease was connected to a sales agreement from the property’s previous owner, whose children were involved in baseball.

The previous owner wanted a portion of the property reserved for athletic purposes, officials said.

Before the township meeting, Ryan met with county board member Drew Frasz, R-Elburn, and representatives of the youth baseball and football players to discuss their concerns regarding the lack of a lease for the next season’s play schedule.

Ryan said he and highway commissioner Rod Feece met with the property owners last month to break the ice and start negotiations. Before they met last month, Ryan said all discussion was between their lawyers.

“The discussion was cordial,” Ryan said. “They said they would not consent to any football activity ... No football any time, for practice or games.”

The youth football program has used a portion of the property for practice.

Eric Marler, vice president of Kaneland Youth Football and secretary of Elburn Youth Baseball, said their aversion to football could be related to worries about injuries.

“You can get hit with a bat and have the same damage, the same liability,” Marler said. 

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