There will be no Akron Racers softball games this season at Firestone Stadium.

Racers minority owner and longtime General Manager Joey Arrietta confirmed Sunday the National Pro Fastpitch softball franchise “will no longer exist” in the same form.

Craig Stout has been the majority owner of the Racers since April 2008, and Arrietta said financial issues have led to changes for the franchise.

“Financially these are difficult times,” Arrietta said. “It requires a significant amount of money to keep these teams going. I am not sure if any professional team is making it just on ticket sales, so it has been a challenging financial situation for [Stout] and I. For him being the majority owner, he was presented with a plan from our league office to have a Chinese contingent involved. We have one Chinese team in our league already, and this is an opportunity to get another affiliated team that is predominately Chinese and then will also have a few American players.

“So in essence the Akron Racers as we have known them for 17 seasons will no longer exist. I have been replaced as the GM, so I am essentially no longer involved with the team. I have to sort out all of the details. I don’t know quite all of the legal ramifications. I still own a piece of the Akron Racers franchise, but this effort here is a bit different.”

The Racers began play in 1999 at Firestone Stadium, took a hiatus from 2001 to 2003 and then returned in 2004 and played in Akron through the 2017 season.

The city of Akron invested $3.5 million to renovate Firestone Stadium in 1999.

“I asked them not to use the name Akron Racers,” Arrietta said. “The league office has control over that, though. You can ask, but the league office owns the marks and everything, but I basically asked for them to not use the name Akron Racers out of respect to the 17 teams that wore that jersey here in Akron. That is something that is near and dear to me and I believe that is the right thing to do.

“If we were to bring the team back in the future, whether it be in a year or whatever, I certainly would want the Akron Racers to re-emerge with the same colors. ... There is ownership to the city, to the stadium and to the fans and everybody that has been involved with us to retain those rights.”

Arrietta said she is unsure if any players from last season will be kept on the new team.

“I understand that the Chinese players are a younger group that will be coming over here,” Arrietta said. “I believe as many 15 will be on the roster and then the rest will be a few American players.

“I want to bring our team back. ... I have gathered some folks together in looking at the sustainability of the Akron Racers, and I think that we will continue to explore that and we will see whether there is a groundswell to bring the team back. I hope there is. I hope there is for the young girls who continue to dream about being an Akron Racer. There are a lot of young girls out there that have told me that they want to be a Racer someday. I want to make sure that is a possibility.”

Arrietta said she did not know if the new Chinese team will have a home stadium in 2018 or if it will travel around the country and play strictly away games.

“I have not confirmed that this team will play at Firestone Stadium at all,” Arrietta said. “I heard that they might play a couple of games here. This team will not be based in Akron and will not play home games at Firestone Stadium as far as I know.”

Arrietta said Firestone Stadium will continue to host youth, high school and college events this season.

The venue regularly is home to high school games in the regular season and during the sectional, district, regional and state tournaments.

“I have about 100 teams coming in in the month of April,” Arrietta said. “My commitment to the youth, amateur, high school and collegiate programs is unwavering. That is very, very significant to me. We have about 150 dates that are scheduled for games and events at the stadium between April and November.”

Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or mbeaven@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MBeavenABJ.