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Escondido Hears About Lake Elsinore’s Ballpark Experience

The Escondido Democratic Club held a meeting at their headquarters in downtown Escondido on October 9. Open to the public, the meeting’s purpose was to hear presentations by San Diego Padres representatives along with pro and con voices from the community regarding the proposed ballpark in Escondido.

Mayoral candidates Sam Abed, Tom D’Agosta, and Joe Bologna and city-council candidates Jim Crone, Carmen Miranda, and Ed Gallo gave brief statements to the 100-plus attendees.

Although not currently serving on the city council, Ed Gallo stated that he is “...predisposed that this is not a good deal for the City of Escondido. I don’t like the idea of indenturing our future redevelopment money for the next 25 years. We have other major issues in this town that the money could be better used for.”

Councilman Sam Abed stated, “The ballpark is probably the most critical decision the council will make for the future economic prosperity of Escondido. [The ballpark] could be the most exciting thing that happens to Escondido; it could be a financial liability for a long time.”

To give the perspective of real-world experience, Gary Washburn, the mayor of Lake Elsinore in 1994, described the experience of building a ballpark complex in his city. It wasn’t until now, Washburn asserted, 15 years after construction, that Lake Elsinore is making the project economically viable with the addition of homes, an educational complex, and retail establishments.

Unable to estimate a return on investment, Washburn stated that the City of Lake Elsinore pays $250,000 annually in operating expenses and will be free of that cost in a year or two.

Washburn described three major difficulties that caused the ballpark's cost to go from $18 million to $21 million.

The first was the economic climate: “We were in a recession; we thought we would come out of it, but it kept going.” The second was the State of California: “They came down like an IRS agent and took $3 million from our [redevelopment] fund.” And, lastly, “The City tried to build and operate the facility. Cities probably should build things but they should not operate businesses like ballpark operations.”

Steve Peace of the Padres and Erik Judson, a consultant, described their background and expertise from their involvement with Petco Park. Judson said, “We are in the business of developing projects that are of great benefit to the broader community as well as their prime partners.”

Judson described his analysis of why it makes sense to build the ballpark in Escondido: close to Padres home field, proximity to north San Diego and southern Riverside county population, ease of freeway access and existing high quality infrastructure.

The reason the location of the ballpark is under wraps, explained Judson, is to prevent speculators from bidding up neighboring property prices and thus costing the City more. Financial details are still in negotiation and were not disclosed. The City Council intends to make a decision by December 1, as Padres ownership has until that date to exercise its option to purchase the Portland Beavers.

Escondido will consider signing a memorandum of understanding with the Padres at the October 27 city-council meeting.

Photo: Padres consultant Erik Judson

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The Escondido Democratic Club held a meeting at their headquarters in downtown Escondido on October 9. Open to the public, the meeting’s purpose was to hear presentations by San Diego Padres representatives along with pro and con voices from the community regarding the proposed ballpark in Escondido.

Mayoral candidates Sam Abed, Tom D’Agosta, and Joe Bologna and city-council candidates Jim Crone, Carmen Miranda, and Ed Gallo gave brief statements to the 100-plus attendees.

Although not currently serving on the city council, Ed Gallo stated that he is “...predisposed that this is not a good deal for the City of Escondido. I don’t like the idea of indenturing our future redevelopment money for the next 25 years. We have other major issues in this town that the money could be better used for.”

Councilman Sam Abed stated, “The ballpark is probably the most critical decision the council will make for the future economic prosperity of Escondido. [The ballpark] could be the most exciting thing that happens to Escondido; it could be a financial liability for a long time.”

To give the perspective of real-world experience, Gary Washburn, the mayor of Lake Elsinore in 1994, described the experience of building a ballpark complex in his city. It wasn’t until now, Washburn asserted, 15 years after construction, that Lake Elsinore is making the project economically viable with the addition of homes, an educational complex, and retail establishments.

Unable to estimate a return on investment, Washburn stated that the City of Lake Elsinore pays $250,000 annually in operating expenses and will be free of that cost in a year or two.

Washburn described three major difficulties that caused the ballpark's cost to go from $18 million to $21 million.

The first was the economic climate: “We were in a recession; we thought we would come out of it, but it kept going.” The second was the State of California: “They came down like an IRS agent and took $3 million from our [redevelopment] fund.” And, lastly, “The City tried to build and operate the facility. Cities probably should build things but they should not operate businesses like ballpark operations.”

Steve Peace of the Padres and Erik Judson, a consultant, described their background and expertise from their involvement with Petco Park. Judson said, “We are in the business of developing projects that are of great benefit to the broader community as well as their prime partners.”

Judson described his analysis of why it makes sense to build the ballpark in Escondido: close to Padres home field, proximity to north San Diego and southern Riverside county population, ease of freeway access and existing high quality infrastructure.

The reason the location of the ballpark is under wraps, explained Judson, is to prevent speculators from bidding up neighboring property prices and thus costing the City more. Financial details are still in negotiation and were not disclosed. The City Council intends to make a decision by December 1, as Padres ownership has until that date to exercise its option to purchase the Portland Beavers.

Escondido will consider signing a memorandum of understanding with the Padres at the October 27 city-council meeting.

Photo: Padres consultant Erik Judson

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Comments
6

Was there any discussion as to why Portland no longer wants this team?

Portland is 4 times greater in population than Escondido. The Portland metro area population is about 3 times the entire population of north county. In Portland there is no competition from major league baseball and they support an NBA basketball team (San Diego couldn't even do that), yet can't support this minor league baseball team.

It is nice to learn from Lake Elsinore, but shouldn't we also discuss why baseball has now left Portland 3 times? What makes it viable in Escondido but not viable in Portland?

Oct. 12, 2010

There wasn't any discussion, only a few comments as to why the Beavers are leaving Portland after being there since the early 1900's. My understanding is that Portland changed their stadium into an all soccer stadium and Beavers management wanted a new stadium built for the ball club. The city declined to build the new stadium, so the team is up for sale and will move.

Don Bauder wrote an excellent article on Sept 22 in this newspaper about the ballpark possibility in Escondido. The comments following the article are worth reading as well.

Your questions are excellent, and I share the same plus many more about the sanity of the project, fiscal and otherwise. I also think they should learn how to profitably manage the CA Center for the Arts, Escondido, before they move on to other major projects.

Oct. 12, 2010

It's worth noting that the Beavers have not been in Portland since the early 1900's.

They left Portland in 1972, and returned in 1978, then left again in 1993 only to return again in 2001. Actually, the team that returned in 2001 one was not the same team that left, but rather was the Albuquerque Dukes who moved from New Mexico to Oregon. Two years later, the Calgary Cannons moved to Albuquerque and became the Isotopes.

Attendance for the Padres while fighting for what should have been a pennant in a swanky new downtown stadium was 26,318. What predictions have been made for attendance in Escondido? Will 2,000 to 4,000 fans pay the bills?

Oct. 12, 2010

Re #3: The Padres were not fighting for a "pennant", they were attempting to either win the NL West or the NL Wild Card. Winning the pennant is an outdated term. Attendance was down all over baseball - except for the big market teams, the down economy looks like the apparent culprit.

The predictions for attendance in Escondido have been absurdly high, I have heard 7,000 - 8,000 which will not happen. I can't think of a single good reason that the City of Escondido should want to build a stadium.

Oct. 12, 2010

re #4: "Winning the pennant is an outdated term."

Gee, don't tell that to the Giants and Phillies, or they might not show up for the next series!

The National league champion (or the American league champion) wins the pennant and represents their league in the World Series now every bit as much as when there were only two divisions and no wild-card or when there were no divisions at all.

Oct. 12, 2010

re #5: "They prefer soccer, and don't go for attractions that require a lot of money."

The irony is that the minor league Beavers are available to move to Escondido because Portland is kicking them out of their stadium to renovate it into a soccer-only stadium for an MLS team.

Oct. 12, 2010

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