Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Sports authority insists Marana is spring training option

For D’backs, Rockies, third team

A Marana spring training complex as a February-March site for Major League Baseball is still in the works and could be home to up to three clubs.

“We really think we can populate a three-team facility in Marana,” said Tom Tracy, chairman of the Pima County Sports and Tourism Authority.

And two of those teams could still be the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies, he added.

Both MLB teams are exploring options to move from their Tucson spring training homes at Tucson Electric Park and Hi Corbett Field, respectively.

The Diamondbacks’ contract with Pima County to conduct spring training at TEP expires in 2012. The Rockies are obligated to play at Hi Corbett through 2011.

But Tracy maintained the move of either team is far from a done deal, despite a published report out of Phoenix that indicated the Diamondbacks may be close to a decision to relocate spring camp to the Phoenix area.

“I spoke with the Diamondbacks as recently as 24 hours ago,” Tracy said. “They have not made a decision to leave.”

The Arizona Republic reported Wednesday that Diamondbacks Chief Executive Derrick Hall said the team was considering three proposals for new spring training facilities in Maricopa County.

But team officials also have said they are interested in the proposed Marana spring training complex, particularly if the regional sports authority is successful in bringing a third MLB team to share such a facility with Tucson’s existing Cactus League teams, Tracy said.

“We are having active conversations with another major league team to have them come here as early as next spring,” Tracy said.

He declined to name the team.

Talks continue with a Japanese major league team to join the Cactus League and play its games at TEP, Tracy said.

A major component of the Pima County Sports and Tourism Authority’s mission is to establish a nationally known baseball academy in Tucson, in conjunction with Major League Baseball and the Chicago White Sox.

The region could become a national site for youth and amateur baseball tournaments, as well, Tracy said.

The White Sox set off the potential loss of spring training in Tucson when the team moved this year to a new facility in Glendale that it shares with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who moved from their longtime Grapefruit League home in Vero Beach, Fla.

The Diamondbacks’ and Rockies’ contracts allow them to leave early if there are not at least three MLB teams training in Tucson.

Tracy said the sports authority also is considering life after the Diamondbacks and Rockies, if those teams decide to leave.

“There is a lot going on and there is a lot going on outside of the Diamondbacks and Rockies,” he said without elaborating.

The sports authority would need permission from both the Arizona Legislature and Pima County voters to enact a tax to fund a new complex in Marana. The proposed tax would be on hotel rooms, restaurants, and other businesses that benefit from the estimated $30 million that spring training brings to Tucson.

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