The Rapid City Marshals were told to pack up their bags and leave their hotel last week due to unpaid bills.
Multiple sources confirmed to the Journal that at approximately 11 a.m. Thursday morning, Marshals players were told by staff at the GrandStay Residential Suites on Disk Drive to leave the property. The hotel kicked the players out after several weeks of unpaid bills charged to Pick Six Entertainment, the former owner of the team.
Team members were left without a home four days prior to their final home game of the regular season, scheduled for Monday.
Marshals head coach Dante Dudley said he and his staff scrambled to help find temporary residence for his players amid another instance of turmoil during their inaugural season, caused by the founding ownership group.
“It was heartbreaking,” Dudley said. “I live here and I’ve never had a home pulled from underneath me. That part is rough because we don’t have a front office in place. Wes (Johnson) and Rebecca (Chapman) are busting their butt in every way they can. It was a blind side hit because all we’d been told is everything is taken care of.”
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Johnson and Chapman purchased the team from Pick Six Entertainment earlier this month and assume full control of the Marshals on Aug. 1.
Since then, multiple sources have described unpaid wages, bounced checks and said they have not been able to reach Pick Six owner Keith Russ. Moreover, Tel Koan, the former operator of the Marshals franchise, resigned from his ownership stake at Pick Six on May 10 and said he has not been involved with the issues of the last few weeks.
“I reached out to Keith and had a couple of conversations with him,” Johnson said. “I was just kind of waiting for them because it’s still their organization right now. Then things hadn’t happened so we did what we could to fill the holes.”
The duo from Gillette, Wyoming has tried to create a sense of stability within the organization, even though they have no contractual obligation to do so yet.
“I’m not going to have players sleeping in cars,” Johnson said. “They have to have a roof over their head, so we are going to do whatever we have to do. We have also come to an agreement with players on payroll and making sure they are paid so they can play.”
Dudley and his family were getting ready for his daughter’s graduation Thursday when he received calls from players an hour before the event. As a result of the circumstances, he said he couldn’t truly focus on celebrating his daughter but was concerned about housing 20 players from out of town.
“I don’t want to make things worse than they already are, but Pick Six Entertainment is definitely responsible for the turmoil,” Dudley said. “I want to reiterate that Wes and Rebecca have gone above and beyond, they could’ve said ‘it’s not our problem until next year,’ but they have hearts of gold.”
Dudley and Johnson gave players the option to leave the team this weekend but only Jake Johnson, L’Herisson Fontilisse Jr., LaBarron Mallory and DeVonte Tinsley were released this weekend.
“It says a lot about the leadership on the team too, with Shea Roberts, Antwan Smith and Demetrius Davis,” Dudley said. “We have guys that stay in communication with their teammates and keep everybody’s head above water. It’s been trying on all of us, but having team leadership helps a lot.”
Johnson doubled down on his commitment to wade through the storm and give fans in Rapid City an organization to be proud of.
“What we are doing right now is a testament,” Johnson said. “This is not our responsibility right now. I have to be clear that we are not obligated contractually but we want this to be here as much as the community wants it to be here.”
The Marshals return to the field at 7 p.m. Monday night for a Memorial Day matchup with the Omaha Beef at Summit Arena in their regular season home finale.
“It’s been a really rough year for all of us,” Dudley said. “My goal was that if I started something I was going to finish it. The fans should know we have enough guys here that want to finish it and the team hasn’t changed that much.”
Contact Alex Dodd at [email protected]