Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Baseball teams should build their own stadiums

Among the mass of bills the state Legislature is wildly roaring through this week in the mad rush to finish the session is one that would allow Pima County to create a sports authority district.

House Bill 2572 has the support of most of Pima County’s legislative delegation and has already passed the House and is expected to pass the Senate.

Gov. Jan Brewer also is likely to sign it.

She shouldn’t.

She should save us from ourselves and help us resist the temptation to enter the pro sports stadium-building battlefield where more often than not team owners are enriched and taxpayers are fleeced.

The bill would allow the county Board of Supervisors to put to voters the formation of a sports authority special taxation district and if created, gives the authority the authority to put sales tax increases and bonding measures before voters.

Pima County wants to enter the fight for Major League Baseball spring training teams but without the taxation district it’s like fighting a tank with a sharp stick.

Spring training reportedly brings in between $30 and $40 million a year to the local economy. The county wants to hold on to that money and the taxes tied to it. But to do so, it must pay the extortion of MLB team owners who want new stadiums or renovations to existing ones.

So in order to get millions of dollars in spring training money, the county wants to extract millions of dollars from the local economy in new taxes. Or put another way, they want to raise a tax to gain a tax. That’s senseless.

Perhaps it might make sense to get in bed with pro teams if their owners didn’t break their deals whenever they wanted. The Chicago White Sox were supposed to be here for another three years but bought their way out of their contract for a measly $5 million and moved to Glendale to play in cushy new digs with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The White Sox are the ninth MLB team to change spring training sites in the past 10 years. More changes may be on the way. The Cincinnati Reds are moving to Phoenix from Florida next year and the Diamondbacks and Rockies are unhappy without a third team in Tucson and are being heavily courted by Maricopa County and Las Vegas.

The Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority will spend about $400 million over the next 20 years building and renovating spring training stadiums in Phoenix. That’s on top of cities like Glendale spending their own millions to build stadiums like Glendale’s $108 million facility for the White Sox and Dodgers.

If the Dodgers can leave Dodgertown, where they’ve been playing in Vero Beach, Fla., since they were Dem Bums from Brooklyn, then why should any community trust a pro team’s promises? Glendale’s money talked and the Dodgers walked, as did the White Sox.

Didn’t the county learn any lessons from the White Sox? Doing business with baseball teams is bad business.

It’s fair to argue that there’s no harm done in passing HB2572 because voters will still have the ultimate say.

But professional baseball is an emotional issue for Americans. We love Dem Bums and those Cubbies and them damn Yankees. It’s not the money that tempts voters to give millions of their tax dollars to billion-dollar corporations, it’s the baseball. We’re our own worst enemy.

The state should help save us from ourselves and kill HB 2572.

Let baseball teams build their own stadiums.

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