Desert mirage? Or did a White ‘Knight’ arrive to save Tempe?

Updated: July 15, 2016

By Jason Perez, The Tempe Times


A mid-west beer mogul seems to have an interest in PEBA’s little-team-that-could

After several tense days of closed-door meetings between the team, the city of Tempe, and stadium manager KSM, the Tempe Knights majority owner Chris van Hauter wasted no time in sending a press release last thursday announcing that the team was given the blessing by PEBA’s Board of Directors to persue a new home outside Arizona. “Given the circumstances the team has been forced to deal with over recent weeks, the team felt it was necessary to explore locations outside the Tempe area, in order for the team to survive and thrive.” he said.

The biggest rumblings have come from the Mid-West, particularly Wisconsin, as they seem to harbor a potentially soft landing spot for the team. A little-known billionaire named Klyde von Rusk, the owner of HeliBrew – the world’s best-selling Helium-infused beer, popular in Universities and Colleges across North America – recently footed 75% of the bill for Madison, Wisconsin to build a brand new ballpark in the city’s downtown. The park’s construction is well under way, and should be complete before the holidays and the harsh Wisconsin winter. The idea is a risky one, as the only guaranteed tenant in the short-term would be Duluth’s AAA affiliate the Madison Cheeseheads, but von Rusk is looking at the big leagues.

The Knights have been quick to jump at the prospect, and have reportedly entered negotiations to move to Klyde von Rusk’s new park. The beer tycoon is asking for a multi-million dollar “administrative fee” to cover hiring stadium staff, advertising, park management and other such expenses if the team was to arrive. PEBA would unquestionably charge a relocation fee as well.

Oddly, when asked by The Tempe Times about the deal yesterday, von Rusk admitted it was not the only team he was talking to. “There is a second PEBA team in the picture too, you know… not just Tempe!” he said. “I want to see big-league ball here, but the door is open for negotiations from all directions. We are looking to bring a healthy and enthusiastic club for the fans of Mad City to enjoy.” he added.

We admit, the comment resulted in us contacting ESPN’s baseball beatwriter Reginald Tarquin in New York, but there were no leads. He was not aware of any other team in negotiations with von Rusk. Any shrewd businessman will always put up a ruse to get more money out of a negotiating party, anyway. Still an interesting prospect, I suppose.

On Twitter this morning, Knights owner Chris van Hauter seemed to have been introduced to von Rusk’s product… “@vanHauterKnights what a park! Will be nice to have Knights baseball here! This helium beer stuff is great, too! If only you could hear me, right now!” At least he seems to be a believer…

The reality, however, is that, financially, the Tempe ownership group is small potatoes in the PEBA landscape, so they will have to do more than tweet about helium beer to get the deal done. More to come…