Stingers minority owner buys St. Cloud franchise
WILLMAR -- A minority owner of the Willmar Stingers bought the St. Cloud River Bats of the Northwoods League as part of an ownership group, the league said.
A press conference Wednesday in St. Cloud announced the sale, which was completed Jan. 25.
Gary Posch, who owns a minority percentage of the Stingers, was one of the initial investors with Ryan Voz and Marc Jerzak, who purchased the Stingers in 2010.
"I knew them when they worked at the St. Cloud franchise and had worked with them on corporate sponsorships and that sort of thing," Posch said. "When the Northwoods League started looking at Willmar, they came to me kind of as the financial piece of the puzzle of getting the Stingers up and running."
Voz said Posch's inclusion from the beginning was as the investor.
"When Marc and I pursued ownership, we needed an investor on board," Voz said. "That was Gary's role, to help get us going."
Posch said he will be keeping his share of the Stingers, but that he won't have anything to do with the day-to-day operation of the team.
"Ryan and Marc are, and will continue to be, the face and heartbeat of the franchise," he said.
Posch bought the River Bats from the Northwoods League along with business partners Joe Sexton and Scott Schreiner.
Posch will serve as team president, while Sexton is a partner and Schreiner is a partner and vice president.
The league took control of the River Bats on Dec. 21 after former owner Joel Sutherland, who owned the franchise since its inception in 1997, ran into financial difficulties.
Posch said the River Bats appealed to him because he's a St. Cloud native, but also because of his experience with the Stingers.
"I've had a very good experience with Ryan and Marc in Willmar and gotten to know the operations part of being a sports team owner," he said. "(The Stingers) were my first venture in sports team ownership and when the team came available in St. Cloud, it was a natural fit for me."
Posch said that he offered Voz and Jerzak the opportunity to be part of the group buying the River Bats but they decided against it.
"When the purchase became a significant possibility, I went to Ryan and Marc to find out if one or both had interest in coming to St. Cloud," Posch said. "They from Day 1 have said no. They don't want to ruin anything they've got going well in Willmar."
Voz said he didn't want to potentially jeopardize where their focus was.
"We've only had two years in the Willmar market," he said. "The Willmar Stingers to us are something we put a lot of focus and we didn't want to look past what we owe to the fans and sponsors."
Voz, Jerzak and Posch purchased the Stingers from the Northwoods League in October 2009, as an expansion franchise. The Stingers, along with the addition of the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters in January 2010, pushed the Northwoods League's size from 14 to 16 teams.