On October 27, the Escondido City Council held a workshop regarding the minor-league ballpark proposal put before the City by a Padres ownership group led by Jeff Moorad. The business-model presentation was made by Padres consultant Erik Judson, while the economic goals and analysis were presented by reputed real estate economist Gary London.
The group is asking the City to build a 9000-seat ballpark for its soon-to-be-purchased triple-A ball club, the Portland Beavers; they’d want the stadium to be operational by opening day 2012. During the building phase, the Beavers would be housed in either Tucson or Lake Elsinore.
Padres reps feel the chosen ballpark site, near downtown (on Spruce Street), would be the most economical choice. They cited proximity to I-15, SR-78, and the Sprinter station for ease of access. They said that the ballpark’s proximity to downtown would spur development around the ballpark and revitalize the City’s downtown area better than other development choices that may be available.
The group estimated that the price of the facility would be approximately $50 million, a cost that would be paid entirely by the City. To finance that sum, city staff estimated they would need to commit redevelopment-bond money for the next 25 to 30 years.
During the question phase of the presentation, councilmember Olga Diaz asked if the City’s return on their investment would come only from ancillary development and not from cash flow from ballpark events. London responded, “I think that you are fundamentally correct.
Diaz cited Reno, Nevada’s ballpark deal, in which the facility cost $80-million-plus but the City invested $43 million; thus, the risk was shared by both parties. Diaz said in order for this proposal to work, both parties needed to share the risk.
Twenty-one speakers contributed their thoughts on the issue, some to the applause of the 100-plus spectators in the chamber. Of the 21 speakers, 18 were opposed; most cited the lack of public comment, lack of economic development, and cost to the City for an extended period of time. The people in favor cited the economic development, social gains, and community harmony that baseball would bring to Escondido.
Due to the purchase commitment made by Jeff Moorad to the Beavers ownership to buy (or not) the club by December 1, the city council will make a decision at their November 30 meeting.