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Revamped Bandits Coming to Elgin

ELGIN, Ill. - Chicago Bandits owner Bill Conroy was disappointed his 2007 team didn't make the National Pro Fastpitch playoffs.

But for 2008, he has assembled a team that will play with a different style -- and at a new venue.

The Bandits, the city of Elgin and Judson University announced Tuesday the NPF franchise will move to Elgin and play its home games for the next three years at a revamped Judson field while it waits for the city to build a stadium, which it expects to be ready by 2011. The renovations at Judson will include seating for 2,000.

"This move is something we've been working on for more than a year," said Conroy, whose team played the last three years in Lisle at Benedictine University.

Conroy said the franchise's previous relationship was a good one. But Benedictine grounds are co-owned by the village of Lisle, and the Bandits had to share dates with the Dragons, a summer collegiate baseball team.

"We wanted to find our own venue and it made sense to start building our fan base in Elgin now," Conroy said.

The Bandits finished 23-21 last season, last in the six-team NPF.

But coach Mickey Dean's team, which relied on the pitching of Olympic star Jennie Finch and a lineup heavy on left-handed slappers, will be more of a power team in 2008, Conroy said.

"We'll play a different style," Conroy said.

The home opener on the 28-game schedule will be June 6 against Akron.

The Bandits open the season at Rockford on May 28.

Conroy also has added some pitching to cover the absence of Finch, who will be with Team USA in the Beijing Olympics next summer.

Via trades, the Bandits have picked up former UCLA All-American Amanda Freed and 2007 NPF Rookie of the Year Kristina Thorson of Cal-Berkeley.

The Bandits have also acquired former DePaul standout Tracie Adix.

The move to Elgin puts the Bandits within 45 miles of the Rockford Thunder, which had a successful first season after moving from Texas.

"Sometimes having a team in your backyard is advantageous," said Conroy. "It cuts down on travel and creates a natural rivalry. Our relationship with Rockford is a strong one and (Thunder owner) Bob Lowe is a great guy."

While Elgin is moving forward with stadium plans, city councilman Mike Powers was all smiles about the Bandits deciding to move to the city and to Judson.

"We want Elgin to be a regional sports center," he said. "Elgin has an incredibly rich sports tradition that we want to build on, and this is an incredible marriage between the city, the Bandits and Judson University."

Conroy also said the Bandits are negotiating a deal with Comcast SportsNet and that the NPF is hoping to be able to stream games live on the Internet in 2008.