A major fundraising push by the Peninsula Oilers board of directors and concerned community members to save the 2015 season and the organization itself has gotten off to a slow start.
On Aug. 13, the Oilers fundraising committee had a meeting open to the public where many of those in attendance agreed to branch out into the community and try to raise funds to combat the serious short- and long-term financial issues the Oilers face.
Michael Tice, the president of the board, said the Oilers need to raise about $170,000 to get through next season.
Wednesday, the group reconvened at the clubhouse at Coral Seymour Memorial Park. Eight were present and despite some contacts made in the community, very little money had been raised.
“The reality is we raised $300 in the past few weeks,” Tice said after the meeting.
Several factors have come up since the Aug. 13 meeting to make matters tougher for the Oilers.
At that meeting, Tice said preliminary talks with the bank indicated the Oilers had $65,000 to $85,000 left to borrow against the value of their bingo hall.
But the day after that meeting, Tice learned the bank had changed its tune due to the Oilers financial situation.
“They can’t see how they would loan us any money as of right now,” Tice said during the meeting.
Tice said that was a major factor that led to a special meeting of the board Tuesday that ratified the decision of the executive committee to let general manager James Clark go.
“It was not what we wanted to do,” Tice said after the meeting. “It was completely an economically based decision.”
After the Aug. 13 meeting, Clark said he had increased sponsorship each year. When the Oilers let their field and building maintenance employee go before the 2013 season, Clark assumed those tasks in addition to his general manager tasks.
Prior to the 2014 season, the Oilers sold the condo where coaches would stay, so Clark put them up in his home and lent them his personal vehicle.
“In the capacity of general manager and ballpark and field operations, he was awesome,” Tice said after the meeting.
But Tice said the Oilers could not afford the approximately $5,000 per month that it took to keep Clark around.
In addition, Diana Tice, Michael Tice’s wife, will be leaving her administrative assistant position with the Oilers on Friday.
“As of Friday, everything that is done by the Oilers has got to be done by the board,” Michael Tice said.
Tice said that the Oilers, who have played 41 seasons, played 31 of those seasons without a paid general manager. He said the board will have to figure out a way to do that again.
“I think several people will take this and run with it,” Tice said. “Other people will probably just run.”
An immediate problem is that Clark was to serve as the point person for raising funds.
Dan Gensel, a board member and the voice of the Oilers, said this must be rectified at the Sept. 13 board meeting.
Gensel suggested hiring a sales and marketing director to work solely on commission, and getting somebody in the office part-time.
“We can’t raise money if there is nobody in the office and nobody on the street,” Gensel said. “We’re not going to be in the office because we all have jobs and we’re not going to be on the street because we all have jobs.”
Tice did say that anyone with fundraising ideas or offers can still call the office at 283-7133 and the voice mail will be checked regularly.
The Oilers also started a drive on gofundme.com, which can be accessed at oilersbaseball.com, but as of Thursday, the drive had raised just $300.
Another blow to the Oilers fundraising prospects came with the cancellation of the Peninsula Pucks and Balls event, which was to be put on by Kassik’s Brewery in October.
The event was to raise money for the Oilers and Kenai River Brown Bears. Tice said it was his understanding that it was canceled because the Oilers could not be a reliable partner because of their current problems.
“It’s unfortunate, and we’d like to apologize to the Brown Bears,” Tice said.
The clock is ticking on putting together a season for 2015.
There was an Alaska Baseball League meeting Thursday, and Tice said that with Clark gone, board member Mike Baxter represented the Oilers at the meeting and told the league of the Oilers tentative situation.
The Oilers annual elections are in October, so Tice doesn’t see an official decision on 2015 coming until then.
Tice said the ABL could wait until the end of the year, but the Oilers would need to get coaches and players before then.
“The executive structure could change at the October meeting, so based on that I don’t see action coming until October,” Tice said.
Despite all the hurdles, Tice remains optimistic and hopes the worst is behind the Oilers.
“I hope that we can come together after everything that’s gone on and focus on nothing but having a season,” he said.