With one professional baseball team halfway out the door and the remaining two nervously eyeing their options, Pima County is launching a desperate push to keep spring training here alive.
But it may well be too little, too late.
And in any case, the county must not throw a pile of taxpayers’ money into the fight to keep spring training teams from leaving Tucson.
The county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday moved closer to forming a regional sports authority to raise money for stadium improvements.
It’s an understandable move. It was money from a sports authority in Maricopa County that was used to build a stadium that the Chicago White Sox will use as their spring training base when they leave Tucson – possibly as soon as next year.
But we have many issues over formation of such an authority here:
• Local taxpayers should not be stuck with the bill to spiff up stadiums for pro sports teams. It’s not a wise investment. Spring training is said to add $30 million to the local economy – a scant 1.3 percent of the total impact of tourism.
• If the money doesn’t come from local taxpayers, what will be the source? Maricopa County boosted rental-car and hotel taxes to build stadiums. Tucson already has high rental-car and hotel taxes with revenues designated for other means.
• The Legislature must approve formation of any new taxing authority. That will be a difficult sell, especially if the authority seeks state money as the Maricopa County sports authority receives.
• An interim group studying the idea of a sports authority is made up of people representing sports and tourism-related businesses that benefit from spring training. But where is the voice representing the ordinary taxpayer?
Before launching other sports ventures, it also is important that the county clearly and completely explain the finances of its Tucson Electric Park. Tourism-related taxes were to have paid for TEP, but taxpayers have been hit for its construction and operation.
As with many things, formation of a sports authority comes down to money. Revenue sources are the key.
County residents already are heavily taxed, so please, no more sales taxes or other types of value-added taxes. The public investment needs to be limited by a thorough analysis of the cost effectiveness and what the return on investment would be.
Each and every proposal must be vetted through a cost-benefit analysis. It makes no sense to spend $2 in taxes to save $1 in revenue.
We want to save spring training. We enjoy the games, and it is a boost in the quality of life in the metropolitan area.
But saving spring training at any cost – with taxpayers the most likely candidates to bear the brunt of the cost – is not worthwhile.