By MATT HOPF
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
A 30-day extension has been granted by the Prospect League for the Quincy Gems to make their decision to commit to the 2015 season.
The league's original deadline was Aug. 1. The extension provides more time for the Quincy Civic Center Authority, the owner of the team, to find a buyer for the team.
Rob Ebbing, executive director of the Oakley-Lindsay Center and the Quincy Gems, was notified of the league's decision around 11 a.m. Wednesday. He believes this buys enough time to finalize a deal. While three parties are interested in the team, he said he has received only one formal verbal proposal.
"I'm waiting on the other two to give us theirs, so we can act on them," Ebbing said. "What we're trying to do is look at all the proposals and feel what is best for the community and what is best for the civic center. Just in talking, some people are looking at different ways of structuring the sale, and we have to look at those different options and decide which one we want."
The team was put on the market last October after it lost more than $90,000 in 2013. Any sale would have to be approved by the Prospect League.
Authority members also are confident that a sale will take place.
Member Mark Neiswender said he's not concerned that a sale has not yet been finalized because only a small amount of people would want to buy a team.
"And when you pigeonhole it even more to keep the team in Quincy, you've even made that group of people that may be interested in the team (smaller)," he said. "We've got some people that are interested, but they want to move the team out, and we don't want that."
Authority Chairman Hubert Staff said there isn't much the authority could do to ensure that the team would remain in town, but he said the parties who have expressed interest so far plan to have the team remain in Quincy.
"We won't get any guarantees for how long, but as long as our community continues to support the Gems, I imagine they would keep them here," he said.
Staff said he hoped that the team would have been sold by now, but he understood that it is a long process.
"We're doing all we can, so we'll just have to wait and see if someone really is truly interested," he said.
Ebbing believes the bottom line will improve this season. The team has an average attendance of 1,109 this season, an increase of nearly 200 fans per game over last season. Concessions have also been outsourced, the grounds crew was reduced and no capital projects were completed .
"It's not going to be the fiasco that it was last year," Ebbing said. "I hope that it will break even or make a little bit of money. That shows some prospective buyers that it can turn around that quick."
Ebbing said he has not approached authority members about running the team in 2015.
"I'm concentrating on the sale," he said, adding the sale could go through at the next authority meeting Aug. 20 or at a special meeting.
Neiswender said he believes the other authority members would be opposed to operating a team if a deal isn't completed, but "we're not just going to disband the team," he said. "I'm fairly sure with the people that are interested, one of them will come through and take the team on."