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Leaders eye tax plan for spring training facilities

The Arizona Republic

The Arizona Republic

Spring training could have a future in Tucson after all.

Southern Arizona leaders are working on legislation that would let Pima County voters decide if they want to raise sales taxes to build a new stadium and spend money renovating the existing homes of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies.

The move comes in response to the Chicago White Sox departing this spring for a new stadium near Glendale. Executives for the remaining teams have said they don’t want to stay in the Old Pueblo if they are the only squads in southern Arizona, and both squads are considering proposals from communities near Phoenix.

The Rockies’ lease at Hi Corbett Field ends in 2011, and the Diamondbacks’ lease at Tucson Electric Park expires in 2012. However, the departure of the White Sox triggers an early-exit clause for the other two teams.

Tom Tracy, chairman of the Pima County Sports and Tourism Authority, said a yet-to-be-determined new stadium could be home to another major-league squad and possibly a Japanese baseball team.

“We want to show the Diamondbacks and Rockies we are committed to keeping them here, and we want to give them top-flight facilities,” Tracy said.

The plan, sponsored by state Rep. Vic Williams, R-Tucson, asks the Legislature to let Pima County voters decide on creating a sports taxing district similar to the one in Maricopa County. The district then would levy additional sales taxes on hotels, car rentals, restaurants, bars and retail. The tax rate would range from 0.15 to 0.45 percent.

Tracy said the additional taxes would generate about $17 million annually for 30 years, a steady revenue stream to pay off bonds for ballpark construction.

A similar bill died in the state Senate last year.

Leaders eye tax plan for spring training facilities

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