Pima County seeks to hold onto spring training teams - East Valley Tribune: Sports

Pima County seeks to hold onto spring training teams

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Posted: Monday, July 7, 2008 1:02 pm | Updated: 9:49 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

PHOENIX - The Pima County Sports and Tourism Authority is expected to plot its next move in trying to help Tucson retain its Major League Baseball spring training teams.

The goal is to try to keep the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies in Tucson after the Chicago White Sox announced plans to move its spring training to metropolitan Phoenix. With no money to improve facilities for the Diamondbacks and Rockies, there's concern the city's other two spring tenants will leave.

"Right now, there is no question the future of Cactus League baseball in southern Arizona is in question," said Tom Tracy, chairman of the Pima County Sports and Tourism Authority.

Late last month, the Arizona Legislature failed to approve a measure that would have paid for efforts to retain teams by levying a tax on rental cars, retail businesses, hotels, restaurants, bars and amusement businesses, including sporting events. The House approved the measure, but the Legislature adjourned before the proposal could get a vote in the Senate.

Such taxes could have been used, in part, to fix aging Hi Corbett Field and Tucson Electric Park, which are home to the three major-league clubs. The county has estimated that upgrades at Hi Corbett, which began hosting spring-training games in the 1940s, could cost up to $30 million. Estimates haven't been made for improvements to clubhouse facilities at Tucson Electric Park.

Tracy said that if all three teams left, they would take with them a combined $30 million that spring-training visitors pump into the local economy.

The departures also would deal a huge perception blow to the community, which competes for tourism and conventions with other medium-size markets, Tracy said.

Pima County supervisors created the sports authority this spring because they were concerned that if the White Sox left, the other two teams likely would follow. They also wanted to contend with the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority, which has been the financial muscle behind renovating and building spring-training sites in Maricopa County.

The Pima County Sports and Tourism Authority is slated to meet July 16 to figure out what to do next.

Jay Alves, a Rockies spokesman, said the team plans to meet with Tucson business leaders in the near future about Hi Corbett, but he declined to answer questions.

The Diamondbacks say they are supportive of Tucson, but will not stay if the other teams bolt.

"We would do what we could to keep the Diamondbacks there and attract other teams," said Ken Kendrick, the team's managing general partner. "We would love for there to be four teams there, but I have little hope that can happen."

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