Ontario Looking To Poach Rancho Cucamonga’s Baseball Team

After months of clandestine preparation, City of Ontario officials this week publicly unveiled their brazen plan to poach the Quakes minor league baseball club from neighboring Rancho Cucamonga.
So confident are Ontario officials that they can outmaneuver their counterparts in Rancho Cucamonga, they committed Tuesday night to spend $95 million to construct a baseball stadium in less than three years so the to-be-renamed Quakes will have a home field that will be ready for the opening of the 2026 California League season.
While Ontario officials stopped short of outright declaring that they have already sealed a deal with the Quakes and its president Brent Miles, there are multiple giveaways that the Quakes will not remain in Rancho Cucamonga beyond the 2025 season.
The Quakes, which started out in life as the Lodi Crushers in 1966 as a Chicago Cubs minor league affiliate, in 1969 changed to become an Oakland Athletic farm club. A year later, it reaffiliated with the San Diego Padres, changing the team name to the Padres. In 1972, it transformed into a farm club for the Baltimore Orioles, changing its name to the Orions in 1972, the Lions in 1973 and the Orioles in 1974. In 1976, the team affiliated with the Dodgers, changing its name to the Dodgers. The affiliation with the Dodgers ended in 1983, whereupon it formed an affiliation with the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs, however, ended its relationship with the team in 1984 and then-owner Michelle Sprague deactivated the team while she sought another major league affiliate. A group headed by former Dodger Ken McMullen revived the team, associating it with the Tronto Blue Jays and moving it to Ventura under the Gulls name in 1986. In 1987, majority owner Hank Stickney, backed by a group of minority investors including Roy Englebrecht and actor Mark Harmon, moved the team to San Bernardino as the San Bernardino Spirit. In 1993, after the City of Rancho Cucamonga had constructed a baseball stadium subsequently dubbed the Epicenter, the team moved to Rancho Cucamonga as a San Diego Padres affiliate, becoming the Quakes. The team in 2001 changed its major league affiliate to the Angels and since 2011 has been a Dodgers farm club again. In 2013, LoanMart, an Encino-based lending company, entered into a ten-year sponsorship and naming rights deal with the franchise, renaming the ballpark LoanMart Field.
There are substantial issues with the now more than three decade-old Epicenter/LoanMart Field, which both the City of Rancho Cucamonga and the Quakes ownership are dealing with.
More than four years ago, major league executives did a survey of the stadium, reaching a conclusion that maintenance, upgrades, additions and modernizations, few of which are negotiable, will need to be made if the team is to remain in place as a major league affiliate. The price tag on those fixes runs, conservatively, to $7 million. LoanMart, which engaged in the sponsorship of the stadium for promotional purposes and actually has no ownership of the facility, was not willing to share in those costs. For more than two-and-a-half years, negotiations between the city and the Quakes ownership – Brett Sports & Entertainment – as well as Quakes President of Baseball and Corporate Operations Brent Miles has been ongoing. The city wants the ballclub to anticipate much more heavily in completing the requisite improvements. The team is not prepared to make the sort of investment the city is asking for.
The Quakes’ exclusive use lease at the stadium runs through the end of the 2025 California League baseball season.
To astute observers, the commitment by the City of Ontario to complete its stadium prior to the opening of the 2026 season is an indication that the city is intent on enlisting the Quakes to play there.
The memorandum of understanding between the City of Ontario and Rancho Baseball, LLC, a division of Washington-based Brett Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, strongly suggests that the Quakes are the contemplated occupants of the home dugout and clubhouse of the minor league baseball stadium the City of Ontario has committed to building.
The memorandum of understanding states, “The city agrees to fund and construct a state-of-the-art stadium within the to-be-developed sports complex located generally south of East Riverside Drive and between South Vineyard Avenue and South Archibald Avenue in Ontario, California, with an estimated stadium construction cost up to $95 million with a completion date no later than March 1, 2026.”
The memorandum avoids specificity in the statement, “This stadium will feature a minor league baseball team owned and operated by the team as the primary tenant.” The team referenced, however, is the Quakes, and it would not appear likely that the Quakes would operate another minor league team, although Brett Sports & Entertainment, Rancho Baseball, LLC’s parent company, also operates the Spokane Indians, another minor league club.
The memorandum continues, “Subject to the team obtaining all necessary approvals of Major League Baseball Professional Development Leagues, LLC, and the stadium actually being completed by the required completion date, the team shall relocate the Professional Development Leagues club to the new stadium starting with the 2026 baseball season.”
The 2026 season reference looms large, as, based on the now nearly three-year-long unresolved negotiations between the Quakes and the City of Rancho Cucamonga, it appears the Quakes will be looking for a new playing venue following the 2025 season.
Another passage in the memorandum of understanding appears to indicate that the Quakes have no intention of returning to Rancho Cucamonga. Moreover, Ontario is signaling it is ready to bankroll the Quakes departure from Rancho Cucamonga by indemnifying the Quakes losses if for any reason Ontario fails to live up to its commitment to have its stadium ready for the Quakes by the time they will need it.
“In the event that the stadium is not ready for occupancy by the team by the required completion date, the city acknowledges that the team will suffer losses and damages which may be impossible or impracticable to calculate,” the memorandum states. “Should the city fail to achieve completion of the stadium by the required completion date, the city shall pay to the team, as liquidated damages and not as a penalty, the stipulated sum of $20,000 per day starting with March 15, 2026. The city and the team agree that the liquidated damages amount is not a penalty and is a reasonable estimation of actual damages, as of the date of this agreement, based upon the inherent uncertainty and difficulty in calculating and quantifying damages caused by delays in achieving final completion of the stadium. The liquidated damages amounts shall be the exclusive remedy for delay-related damages with respect to the delivery of the stadium, but are not intended to preclude the team from pursuing claims and causes of action for other damages to the team resulting from the failures or other defaults of the city under this agreement.”
Ontario’s willingness to put itself and its taxpayers in this jeopardy reflects the determination of the city council to move forward with the acquisition of a third Los Angeles-based pro-sports team affiliated entity. Already, the Clippers and Kings affiliates play basketball and hockey at the city’s Toyota Arena. It is unlikely Ontario officials would be taking the risk they are if the team that will eventually play at the stadium the city is building were not a Dodger affiliate.
The council also committed to contracts with an architectural and engineering firm, Kansas City, Missouri-based Populous Inc, for the design of the stadium and supervision of its construction, as well as with Riverside-based Tilden-Coil Construction for the building of the project.
The stadium, to be located on the south side of East Riverside Drive, across from Whispering Lakes golf course, will be the centerpiece of what Ontario officials said would be a 196-acre, state-of-the-art regional sports complex that would include eight soccer fields, two football fields, four baseball and four softball fields, four tennis courts, indoor basketball courts, pickleball courts, a skate park, an aquatics center and restaurants. Dubbed the Ontario Regional Sports Complex, it will attract, city officials said, more than 1.2 million visitors per year spending in excess of $60 million in that time frame, while creating more than 600 full-time jobs. The city said it anticipates realizing roughly $1.5 million in tax revenues from the project.
In Rancho Cucamonga, officials there are flummoxed by the end run their counterparts in Ontario are running on them. With the departure of the Quakes in the 2025/2026 offseason, it is virtually unthinkable that another minor league team will locate into the Epicenter, given the trade area for minor league baseball – including the adjacent city – would already be filled by a Dodger affiliate. This will leave the city with an idle but still rather grand but no longer novel or state-of-the-art professional baseball venue.

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