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Pima County seeks to block White Sox move to Glendale

The Pima County Supervisors have sent a letter to state Senate President Tim Bee (R-Tucson), asking for his help in preventing the switch of the White Sox to a spring facility proposed in Glendale.

The Chicago American League franchise intends to move its spring operations to the Maricopa County site in 2009, even though the White Sox have a contract to train in Tucson through 2013. The contract allows a move only if the Sox find a replacement team that meets with Pima County approval.

The letter was sent today.

The letter tells Bee the loss of the Chicago White Sox as spring-training tenants at the Kino Sports Complex “would endanger the future of major league baseball here.”

“This development is very disturbing and harmful to southern Arizona in general and Pima county in particular,” it reads. “Therefore, we are requesting your assistance.”

Glendale’s City Council approved a memorandum of understanding with the White Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday, allowing Glendale to apply to the Arizona Sports & Tourism Authority for financial help in paying for a shared $80 million complex, perhaps across the street from the new $455 million Arizona Cardinals stadium.

The Dodgers have trained for years at “Dodgertown” in Vero Beach, Fla. They and the White Sox are being courted by Glendale.

But officials here are calling this a foul ball.

Supervisors are asking Bee to sponsor legislation preventing one Arizona city from grabbing a major league spring-training tenant from another city.

The board, in its letter, said the state Legislature corrected original Sports Authority legislation to avoid one jurisdiction from using public tax dollars to coax a ball team to switch cities.

The letter was signed by Richard Elías, chairman of the board; Ramon Valadez, vice chairman; Ann Day, Sharon Bronson and Ray Carroll.

THE LETTER

“Dear Senator Bee:

“We are sure you have read some of the news articles related to the potential relocation of the Chicago White Sox from the Kino Sports Complex and Tucson Electric Park to a new stadium to be built in Glendale for both the Chicago White Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers. This development is very disturbing and harmful to southern Arizona in general and Pima County in particular.

“Therefore, we are requesting your assistance.

“As you know, the new stadiums in the Maricopa County area are finances through a Sports Authority that derives its revenue from public funding, specifically tax increment financing or state taxes that if not directed to the Sports Authority would be partially sent to southern Arizona.

“The County has struggled to make Tucson Electric Park break even. Fortunately, for the last couple of years Major League Baseball spring training in Tucson has fulfilled its promise of economic benefits to the community and we are no longer losing money.

“To lose the Chicago White Sox to Glendale would be devastating to the county and the private economic beneficiaries of two-team spring training at Tucson Electric Park and three-team spring training in Pima County.

“The Legislature recognized original problems with Sports Authority legislation where public tax dollars could be used to help one public entity but harm another when competing for spring training facilities and amended the Sports Authority legislation, we believe twice, in Maricopa County to prevent one jurisdiction from using public tax dollars to lure a spring training team to another jurisdiction, particularly when that jurisdiction had also expended considerable public monies in building a spring training facility.

“Unfortunately, Pima County was not protected in this corrective legislation. We need your help to sponsor and immediately enact legislation to correct this oversight.

“Not only are we in danger of losing the Chicago White Sox to Glendale, but the entire future of Major League Baseball spring training in Pima County is in jeopardy since the Colorado Rockies’ agreement with Tucson is contingent upon three teams, not two.

“If the White Sox leave, so could the Rockies.”

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