Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

New stadium isn’t best use for taxpayers’ $125 million

Citizen Staff Writer
Our Opinion

Efforts to save spring training in Tucson must be divided into two categories: emotional and financial.

When it comes to emotions, gee, it would be nice to keep Tucson’s glorious baseball spring training alive.

But on the financial side, it is difficult to make the numbers work. Should local taxpayers – who already are enduring cuts in basic government services – shell out $125 million to build a third pro stadium in hopes that more millionaire team owners will bring their millionaire players to town for a month each year?

It’s tough to justify.

Tucson has had a long love affair with spring training. It was in 1947 that the Cleveland Indians came to town for their preseason tuneup.

But things have changed enormously since then. The Indians bolted for Florida, then went to the Phoenix area. The Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies and Chicago White Sox came to Tucson, but the White Sox left for Glendale this year, leaving the Rockies and Diamondbacks unhappy.

The Pima County Sports and Tourism Authority thinks the answer is to build a $125 million stadium complex in Marana – in addition to Hi Corbett Field and Tucson Electric Park.

Who would use all these stadiums? That’s not clear, although authority members say they can bring teams from Florida or Japan or Mexico.

But as the past shows, a new stadium may attract a team, but it likely will leave when something shinier is paraded before them. Then what? County taxpayers still owe $24 million for construction of TEP and we’ll be paying for nine more years. When teams leave, they don’t take the debt with them. Yet we should go deeper in debt to build another stadium?

The team owners who want new stadiums are hardly paupers.

The Diamondbacks were sold to the current owners five years ago for $238 million and now are worth an estimated $379 million. The Rockies are worth $371 million – and the current owners bought it in 1992 for $95 million.

Are building new homes for these wealthy teams to use about one month every year really the best use of taxpayers’ money? Why not instead train more police officers and sheriff’s deputies? Classes at both academies were canceled this year because taxpayers’ couldn’t afford it.

We like seeing talented baseball players run around on soft green grass in Tucson’s splendorous spring days as much as the next guy. But we also like seeing enough police officers, enough firefighters, streets free of tire-busting potholes and parks that are open, available and well-maintained for our own citizens.

Maricopa County has been on a stadium-building binge, gobbling up every available team. Fine. If that’s how those taxpayers wish to spend their money, have at it.

But is that really the best use of $125 million of our own tax money? We think not.

We have two

stadiums. We don’t need to spend public money for a third stadium for the

benefit of

millionaire team owners.

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