Derek Ray 7:41 p.m., March 13
Escondido Council Approves Ballpark -- with Reservations
The Escondido city council last night (Dec. 15) approved by 4-1 a tentative deal to shell out $50 million for a ballpark for the Padres's AAA minor league team, but councilmembers want changes before the deal is finally approved in February, according to the North County Times. Both the council and Padres will have several opportunities to back out. Mayor Sam Abed, who had been critical of the deal before his election, voted in favor of it, but balked at giving the Padres's chief executive Jeff Moorad and his group of investors an exclusive option to buy city land next to the ballpark. Abed also wants the team to cover up to $10 million in potential land and infrastructure cost increases, double the previous agreement, according to the Times. "We're not agreeing to anything here, but we haven't got up and run out of the room," said Steve Peace, advisor to the Padres group, according to the Times.
The team has been known as the Portland Beavers. Portland is the nation's 23rd largest market with a metro population of 2.2 million, but cities in the area balked when the team wanted a subsidized new ballpark. If the Escondido deal goes through, the team would play two years in Tucson, the nation's 52nd largest market with a population of more than 1 million. Escondido's population is 147,514, but backers of the project say that the potential market area is 700,000 -- a figure that others say is wildly optimistic. Abed said the deal would be a "partnership with the best team in baseball," according to the Union-Tribune. That would be the major league Padres, whose attendance has fallen below levels in Qualcomm Stadium, where it played until 2004 when it opened at the highly-subsidized Petco ballpark downtown. About 50 citizens spoke at the meeting, with a slight majority in favor of the project, said the Times."Those opposed said the costs were too high and that Moorad was essentially fleecing the city," said the Times.