Nearly a year after the Coastal Bend Aviators were booted by Nueces County leaders from their home at Fairgrounds Field, the former team's owner is now being asked to pay for the mess his team left behind.
County Attorney Laura Garza Jimenez said last week that a demand letter was sent July 15 to Horn Chen and his attorney, Lester Rosen, asking for immediate payment of $114,639 in damages resulting from the team's default on its 20-year lease with the county.
The 70-page document sent to Chen's attorney contained invoices for repairs and cleaning of the stadium, along with photographs of the areas of the facility in question.
"If they don't pay, then we sue," Jimenez said.
The county is claiming the team owes $20,000 in unpaid rent for the 2007 season, $23,000 in lost rent for the remainder of the Aviators' license agreement, $21,475 for maintenance and repair to the stadium's concession equipment, $40,361 in other repairs to the stadium and $9,702 used to return the stadium to "a reasonably clean condition, free of debris," according to the letter.
In addition, the county is seeking $3,100 in lost rent for the 2008-09 seasons. That number was figured from subtracting how much the county is set to receive from the Corpus Christi Beach Dawgs under their current agreement from how much the county was supposed to receive in rent from the Aviators those two seasons, $25,000 each season, according to the lawsuit.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Oscar Ortiz, whose precinct includes the baseball stadium, said last week that the offer being presented to Chen is on behalf of the county's taxpayers to try and recoup some of the losses from the team's departure.
"Our intention was to pursue the matter for the appropriate balance of what was owed in the lease and for whatever repairs were made on the facility when (the Aviators) left," Ortiz said. "Coordinating this was not a really easy task."
Rosen said he received the demand letter from the county while he was out of the country, but has since spoken to the county attorney's office, informing them he and his client planned to respond in writing.
Rosen has until Aug. 24 to submit a response to the county, or 30 days from the receipt of the demand letter.
Ortiz said he hopes the situation can be resolved without entering a courtroom, adding that if the case were to go to court, he would not like to see a drawn out and costly legal battle.
"We will pursue it as long as it makes financial sense," Ortiz said.
The Aviators, members of the American Association of Independent Baseball, seemingly disappeared after the 2007 season ended. Phones were disconnected and staff was emptied out of the team's offices. The county later terminated the team's 20-year lease and authorized the county attorney to seek payment from the team's owner.
The Corpus Christi Beach Dawgs, who are part of the fledgling Continental Baseball League, took over the stadium in January after entering into a three-year lease with the county.