Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

RoadRunners Withhold Rent Payment in Financial Dispute with Shawnee County

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

RoadRunners Withhold Rent Payment in Financial Dispute with Shawnee County

Article excerpt

The latest financial dispute between Shawnee County and the Topeka RoadRunners shows the relationship between the two parties hasn't thawed much since the county threatened to evict the junior hockey organization last year.

Hundreds of pages of documents obtained late Monday by The Topeka Capital-Journal through an open-records request reveal the county has yet to receive the team's monthly rent and has threatened to terminate its Kansas Expocentre lease later this week if payment isn't received. Documents also show the team contends the county owes it more than $43,000 but continues to suffer from falling gross sales and decreasing game attendance.

Shawnee County issued a notice of default to the RoadRunners on June 2, citing unpaid rent. The letter -- included among the documents provided -- says the team has 10 business days to make rent or its lease will be terminated.

Rich Eckert, the county counselor, said Monday the team hasn't paid. Owner Don Stone said he plans to make the $10,833 rent payment, but wants someone from the county or SMG, the organization operating the Kansas Expocentre, to speak with him.

"The purpose for holding back the check was to try to get somebody to talk to me," Stone said. "And maybe somebody will, and maybe somebody won't."

The RoadRunners maintain that Shawnee County and SMG owe the team more than $43,000. Correspondence from earlier this month shows the county has declined the payment request -- and charges that the team's demand come after a rough season financially.

Gross sales fell from $206,779 during the 2014-2015 to $149,401 during the 2015-2016 season. The average attendance also fell from 734 to 698 -- with the number of complimentary tickets increasing and the number of paid tickets declining.

"Interestingly, after the 2015-2016 RoadRunners season is complete, and a recap shows that sales had significantly decreased compared to the previous season, the team is seeking outlandish payment from Shawnee County/SMG without any evidence supporting the notion that Shawnee County/SMG's action or inaction caused the RoadRunners to suffer economic harm," Ashley Biegert, an assistant Shawnee County counselor, wrote in a June 6 letter. …

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