The Arizona Diamondbacks are looking at four new spring training sites around metro Phoenix, including one owned by the Gila River Indian Community, and could move from Tucson by 2011.
The D-Backs’ actions are spurred by departure from Tucson of the Chicago White Sox, which became official Tuesday when Pima County allowed the team to leave for a new home in Glendale. The White Sox are paying $5 million to the county to break their lease, which was to run through 2012.
That decision leaves just the Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies in the Old Pueblo for the 2009 Cactus League season.
Team President Derrick Hall said the Diamondbacks have to weigh all their options.
“We would rather just stay there, and everyone knows that,” said Hall, who was attending baseball meetings in New York. “But there has to be more than two teams. That’s our issue.”
Hall said the Diamondbacks are at a competitive disadvantage with the departure of the White Sox because there’s one less team to play in Tucson. He said neither the Diamondbacks nor the Rockies benefit by playing each other numerous times. In addition, he said, teams based in metro Phoenix typically don’t bring all their stars to Tucson.
Hall also said the Diamondbacks may partner with the Rockies on a new spring-training facility.
The Rockies, who train at Hi Corbett Field and want significant improvements, could not be reached.
The Diamondbacks are contractually obligated to have spring training at Tucson Electric Park through 2012, while the Rockies have a contract to play at Hi Corbett until 2011.
However, Hall said the White Sox departure triggers escape clauses for both teams.
Hall said the Diamondbacks would like to decide shortly after the first of the year on a future spring training site. He said the timing was necessary because it takes 18 months to two years to build a new facility.
Just south of Phoenix, the Gila River Indian Community is working on a feasibility study and economic impact analysis on whether to build a two-team facility. The tribal council is slated to consider the proposal in January.
Dwight Fujimoto, general manager of the Wild Horse Pass Development Authority, confirmed Tuesday he has spoken with the Diamondbacks.
He would not disclose what other team tribal officials have pursued.
Hall said any new facility would be privately financed, and he said the team has talked with other tribes.
Hall also said talks are under way with private developers to build a new facility in Tucson for the Diamondbacks.