Dayton Daily News Library

The Dayton Dragons
and the long battle to bring baseball to Downtown Dayton

  On Feb. 23, 1999 more than 500 people crammed the Crown Plaza ballroom in downtown Dayton to celebrate the announcement that final approval had been won to bring a minor league baseball team to Dayton.
  The announcement, culminating more than two years of effort, cleared the way for the city to begin construction of a $22.7 million stadium at Patterson Blvd and Moneument Ave. The stadium will be the home playing field of a Class-A affilliate of the Cincinnati Reds.
  Along the way, three separate ownership groups competed with each other and struggled through the arduous process of getting approval from Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball and the Cincinnati Reds.
  The team's name -- the "Dayton Dragons" -- was kept secret until a May 3, 1999 rally at Courthouse Square.

With the mascot looming over him, Hank Stickney speaks at a 5-3-99 rally at which the "Dayton Dragons" name was announced.

The owners:

  The Dragons are owned by Mandalay Sports Entertainment, a division of California-based Mandalay Entertainment, which will be the majority owner. Principal investors with Mandalay include Hank Stickney, his son Ken Stickney, former Sony Pictures Chairman Peter Gruber and Mandalay Vice Chairman Paul Schaeffer. Ohio athletic notables Archie Griffin, Cris Carter and Jeff Graham are also investors. Stickney was interviewed by DDN just after the announcement.

The team:

  Mandalay purchased the Rockford (IL) Cubbies, a Class-A farm team of the Chicago Cubs. The team will remain in Rockford for the 1999 season as the Rockford Reds before moving to the new Dayton stadium as the Dayton Dragons for the start of the 2000 season.

The stadium:

  The $22.7 million stadium will be built at Patterson Boulevard and Monument Avenue on land owned by the city of Dayton. It will have 7,500 seats and room for 2,100 people on a grass berm beyond the outfield wall. There will be 24 skyboxes also. The architect is HNTB Sports Architecture of Kansas City, Mo.
      Left, a computer image of the proposed Dayton baseball stadium, which is to be built at Patterson Boulevard and
     Monument Avenue. Map shows location.

A long battle:

Rock Newman (below) was the lead owner for Sports Spectrum
Sherrie Myers (right)
was to be the owner in the Dayton effort, but sold to Hank Stickney (background) and the Mandalay group.

  In 1996 the Downtown Dayton Partnership and a special task force set out to bring minor league baseball to Downtown Dayton.
   By the summer of 1997 the effort seemed headed for success. The Partnership had an agreement with prospective team owner Sherrie Myers who planned to buy the Rockford (Ill.) Cubbies franchise and move it to downtown Dayton.
  But on Nov. 11, 1997 Myers announced at a press conference that she was giving up her efforts and would sue Major League Baseball for discrimination.
  On the same day Major League Baseball issued a news release saying the Myers group "has not demonstrated it meets baseball's requirements" and that the Cincinnati Reds had given a "qualified waiver of the Dayton territory" to a rival ownership group, Sports Spectrum, fronted by boxing promoter Rock Newman.
   Sports Spectrum vice president and general counsel Rich Ehrenreich said his group would purchase a team and move it to the Dayton area in time for the 1999 season.
  Although Sports Spectrum considered downtown Dayton, it soon chose the Trotwood site porposed by Hara Arena manager Johnny Walker.
  And then on Feb. 3, 1998 the pendulum swung again and the Dayton plan was back in the running. Myers announced she was selling her interests to Mandalay Sports Entertainment of Los Angeles. The new owners would be Mandalay CEO Hank Stickney and Archie Griffin, associate athletic director at Ohio State University.

Dan Sadlier, chairman of the Baseball Task Force holds up a baseball cap with the Dayton name as Maureen Pero looks on during a January 1997 press conference announcing the search for a team to move to Dayton.


Sept. 17, 1996:Maureen Pero, president of the Downtown Dayton Partnership announces the formation of a Baseball Task Force, to be chaired by banker Dan Sadlier.
Oct. 17, 1996: Wright State University abandons plans to build a minor league stadium on its campus.

Jan. 21, 1997: Baseball Task Force recommends acquiring a Class A minor league team and public financing of a $12 million stadium in downtown. Suggested downtown stadium sites are revealed.

Feb. 28, 1997: Cities and townships surrounding Dayton support the idea of a $4 million Economic Development/ Government Equity grant to help fund the stadium.

March 4, 1997: Downtown Dayton Partnership estimates the stadium will cost $20 million and a Class A team another $5 million.
March 27, 1997: Owners of the Lansing (Mich.) Lugnuts - Tom Dickson and Sherrie Myers - announce they plan to own and operate a team in Dayton.

Key players in
Dayton's baseball saga

The Dayton team

Sherrie Myers , a Chicago-based sports team investor. Myers secured an option to buy the Class A Rockford (Ill.) Cubbies and move it to a stadium at the edge of downtown Dayton. Her plan was approved by the team's Midwest League and by the governing body of minor league baseball, but stalled when sent to Major League Baseball.

Mandalay Sports Entertainment , a suburban Los Angeles-based group that produces movies and owns three baseball teams, including the Class AAA Las Vegas Stars. It also owns a Las Vegas hockey team, a NASCAR team, two Indy car racing teams, a radio station and a sports marketing company. Peter Guber, former chairman of Sony Pictures, is a partner in the group. Mandalay bought the Dayton sports corporation formed by Myers to bring the Rockford club to Dayton.

Hank Stickney , CEO of Mandalay. He is a Cleveland native, retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel and member of the board of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues Inc., the minor leagues' governing body.

Archie Griffin , two-time Heisman Trophy winner at Ohio State University and former Cincinnati Bengals running back. Griffin, now Ohio State's associate athletics director, will be a minority owner in the Dayton team.

Valerie Lemmie , Dayton city manager. Lemmie helped to broker the new deal between Mandalay, Myers and Dayton.

The Trotwood effort

Sports Spectrum Inc. , a suburban Chicago-based group of three partners. It owns the Canton Crocodiles in the independent Frontier League and was trying to buy the Michigan Battlecats of Battle Creek and move the team to a stadium at Hara Arena.

Richard Ehrenreich , Sports Spectrum vice-president. He served as spokesman for the partnership's effort to bring a team to Trotwood.


Rock Newman , a Washington D.C.-based former boxing promoter. Newman teamed with Sports Spectrum in the effort to bring a team to Trotwood and would have been the majority owner.


Johnny Walker , Hara Complex president. Walker was working with Sports Spectrum to locate a team at his entertainment complex.

The Reds


John Allen , managing executive of the Cincinnati Reds. Because Dayton is within the Reds' primary market area any group seeking to bring a team to Dayton needed approval from the Reds.

  Meanwhile, Hara Arena General Manager Johnny Walker says he is working to bring a team to Hara.
April, 1997: Some Oregon Historic District residents oppose a stadium near their neighborhood. Meanwhile, Dickson and Myers change their plans to buy a team in the South Atlantic League after Cincinnati Reds officials indicate Dayton is too far from that league. The husband and wife team begin shopping for a team in the Midwest League.
June 3, 1997: Reds officials agree to waive their territorial rights to allow a team in downtown Dayton if funding commitments are made, team owners agree to market the team with the Reds and owners get approval from the Midwest League and Major League Baseball.
June 16, 1997: The Partnership announces a stadium site at First Street and River Corridor Drive.
July 2, 1997: Dayton City Commission votes 4-1 to bankroll the $20 million project until funding from county, state, federal and private sources comes through. The commission agrees to issue up to $13 million in bonds for the project.
July 24, 1997: Boxing promoter Rock Newman raises questions about Dickson and Myers each owning a team in the Midwest League and whether that violates rules against dual ownership. Newman, who says he has friends in Major League Baseball, also said he would be willing to step in and run a team in Dayton.
August, 1997: Some environmental and water table problems at the stadium site are discovered and force the city to consider a different, more costly design. Costs increase $2.7 million to $22.7 million. Midwest League approves Myers' application to purchase the Rockford (Ill.) Cubbies and move them to Dayton for the 1999 season.
Sept. 10, 1997: The city authorizes the stadium land purchase but staff members hold off, awaiting Major League Baseball approval.
Sept. 17, 1997: Myers' application is forwarded to Major League Baseball.
Oct., 1997: Reds officials say they will work with whatever team is approved by Major League Baseball. Myers sets Oct. 15 and Oct. 24 as deadlines to hear from Major League officials. League officials miss the deadlines and say they will make a decision sometime after the World Series.

A tearful Sherrie Myers announced she was dropping her efforts and accused MLB of discrimination

Nov. 11, 1997: At an emotional press conference Myers says she'll stop her efforts to bring minor league baseball to Dayton and will sue Major League Baseball because she feels she is a victim of reverse discrimination. Major League Baseball gives preliminary approval to Sports Spectrum to bring a team here.
Dec. 10, 1997: Sports Spectrum announces an agreement with Trotwood to build a stadium near Hara Arena.
Feb. 3, 1998 -- Myers announces she has sold her Dayton interests to Mandalay Sports Entertainment of Los Angeles. Mandalay CEO Hank Stickney would be the lead owner along with former football great Archie Griffin.
Feb. 6, 1998 -- Investors in the Trotwood project filed a $51 million lawsuit against the Dayton group and the city of Dayton.
March 12, 1998: Mandalay files a $225 million countersuit. March 13, 1998 -- The Midwest League announces that Sports Spectrum had withdrawn its application to bring a team to Trotwood. May 13, 1998: Dayton City Commissioners unanimously approve up to $18.5 million bond sale to finance a baseball stadium, and agrees to a 15-year lease with Mandalay and approves spending $607,000 for an environmental cleanup of the site.
June 1, 1998: Deadline for the start of downtown stadium construction passes without work being started.
June 17, 1998: City Commission splits over whether to require union labor for stadium construction after heated debate between unions and local contractors. The measure fails.
June 22, 1998: Midwest League approves Mandalay's proposal to buy the Rockford Cubbies and move the team to Dayton.
July/August, 1998: Two rounds of stadium construction bids fail to bring in a bid for less than the $16 million proposed cost. City officials concede team cannot begin playing in Dayton until 2000 at the earliest. Mandalay agrees to build stadium itself with help from an $11.3 million loan from the city once Major League Baseball approves.
Dec. 21, 1998: Cincinnati Reds give Mandalay permission to bring a Class-A team to Dayton.
Feb. 23, 1999: Major League Baseball approval announced.
May 3, 1999: At a rally on Courthouse Square team officials unveiled the "Dayton Dragons" name and mascot.

Selected stories on baseball in Dayton:

September 18, 1996 ; By Susan Vinella

January 22, 1997; By Susan Vinella and Laura Bischoff

July 11, 1997; By Susan Vinella

Published: Sunday, July 20, 1997 Page: 1D
By: Tom Archdeacon


2nd group appears to get nod
Published: Wednesday, November 12, 1997

New group wants a team downtown
Published: Wednesday, February 4, 1998 Page: 1A
By Laura A. Bischoff Dayton Daily News


Mandalay officials are from Cleveland
Published: Thursday, February 5, 1998 Page: 1B
By Laura A. Bischoff Dayton Daily News

New group wants a team downtown

By Laura A. Bischoff Dayton Daily News Published: 02/04/98 -- Page: 1A

Downtown group still seeks team

By Susan Vinella Dayton Daily News Published: 03/14/98 -- Page: 1A

* The team owner believes the OK from Major League Baseball will come swiftly
By Steve Bennish and Laura A. Bischoff DAYTON DAILY NEWS
Published: 12/19/98 -- Page: 1A

Team execs will attend rally today

By Jim Bebbington DAYTON DAILY NEWS Published: 02/23/99 -- Page: 1A


Stories on the history of
baseball in Dayton.

July 3, 1992; By RITTER COLLETT

April 6, 1997; By Marc Katz

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for more stories on the effort to bring a baseball team to Dayton.

File Created: 7-11-1997
Updated: 5-4-1998
Prepared by: Dayton Daily News Library staff
Sources: DDN reports