After an off-season in which it saw a team get kicked out of their ballpark and another team go to court for a bankruptcy case, United League Baseball (ULB) has announced it has ceased operations after seven seasons.
Last July, the San Angelo Colts announced that it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Despite the team initially stating it would not affect team operations, they announced on August 11 that the final eight games of the 2014 regular season would not be played at home and would be moved to other ULB venues. The ULB’s regular season was originally scheduled to end on August 24, but the league’s 2014 season was cut short by nine days and ended on August 15. A best-of-five championship series between the Fort Worth Cats and the Rio Grande Valley WhiteWings began the following day, and the WhiteWings swept the Cats to win the 2014 ULB Championship.
Following the conclusion of their season, the ULB entered an off-season filled with obstacles. In November, the City of Fort Worth asked the Fort Worth Cats to leave LaGrave Field, thus leaving them without a home ballpark for the 2015 season.
The following month, a trustee overseeing the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing by the San Angelo Colts filed a motion with the Dallas division of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to either dismiss the Colts’ Chapter 11 filing or convert it to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
Chapter 11 bankruptcy is intended to shield the bankrupt party from collection action while reorganizing its business affairs to repay creditors while still operating. Chapter 7 bankruptcy generally looks to pay off creditors by liquidating property assets.
The motion revealed the Colts organization had $714,034 in unsecured debt and the IRS also had a secured claim against the club of about $28,000.
The ULB’s first season began on May 16, 2006. It had six teams for its inaugural season: the Alexandria Aces, Amarillo Dillas, Edinburg Coyotes, Laredo Broncos, Rio Grande Valley WhiteWings and San Angelo Colts. After five seasons, the ULB merged with the Golden Baseball League and the Northern League to form the North American League in 2011. However, due to lack of financial stability and traveling issues, the 10-team league quickly folded after two seasons.
The ULB was reincorporated in 2013 following the collapse of the North American League. The ULB played an 80-game season from late May to the middle of August, and featured the Edinburg Roadrunners, the Fort Worth Cats, the Rio Grande Valley WhiteWings, the San Angelo Colts, the McAllen Thunder and the Alexandria Aces. Alexandria and McAllen shut down and ceased operations in the middle of the 2013 season, and Edinburg failed to put together a team for the 2014 season and were replaced by the Brownsville Charros.
One of the glaring issues of the ULB last season was their inability to draw fans. Brownsville and Rio Grande shared Harlingen Field, the Fort Worth Cats played out of LaGrave Field and the Colts played at Foster Field. The league drew an average of about 744 fans a game between the three venues. The Colts drew the least amount of fans last season, as they drew a total of 18,008 fans in their 47 home games — averaging a dismal 383 fans a game.
Anton Joe is an Independent League Baseball Reporter for Baseball Essential. You can follow him on Twitter @AntonJoe_BBE.