Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

County weighs options to keep White Sox here

Pima County officials are considering options to keep the Chicago White Sox in Tucson for spring training and other actions should the team flee to Glendale.

The county’s contract calls for the team to play at Tucson Electric Park until 2012. The Board of Supervisors instructed the administration on Tuesday to seek legal advice regarding the contract’s requirements.

The contract binds the White Sox to Tucson unless another team that can produce a similar economic impact relocates here, County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said at Tuesday’s board meeting.

Spring training in Tucson, which also includes the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies, brings an estimated $30 million annually to the area, although county officials say that figure needs revising.

The departure of the White Sox could have a domino effect because the Rockies have a contract requiring two other teams to be located in Tucson, said county Supervisor Ramón Valadez, who represents an area including TEP. Having fans from other teams increases attendance for all the teams.

The county still owes $28 million of the $38 million cost of building TEP.

Scott Reifert, vice president of communications for the White Sox, said the team intends to follow the obligations of the contract, including finding a replacement team if the team leaves Tucson.

The White Sox are interested in moving because the Phoenix area is a larger market with a lot of retirees from Chicago, he said.

Despite mounting opposition to the proposed move, Arizona officials should support the move because the Los Angeles Dodgers have teamed up with the White Sox in a plan to relocate in Glendale, Reifert said. With the Dodgers moving from Florida under the plan, and a team replacing the White Sox in Tucson, Arizona would get two new baseball teams as a result of the deal, he said.

But Pima County officials worry about getting a team without a strong fan base such as the White Sox, winners of the 2005 World Series. They’ve asked Tim Bee, president of the Arizona Senate and a Tucson Republican, to sponsor legislation that would prevent the Arizona Sports & Tourism Authority from financially assisting the proposed White Sox move.

Also on Tuesday, the board certified the results of the Nov. 7 general election. Although supervisors were concerned about “irregularities” in the election, they decided that the problems didn’t change any outcomes.

Democratic Party observers made a number of complaints to the board, including the breaking of a seal on a computer used to count ballots. Huckelberry said the seal was broken but the only mistake was to not immediately notify election observers about what happened.

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