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Escondido council fills vacancy in advance of ballpark vote

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Pacific Coast League
The Escondido (Cal.) City Council appointed a partial ballpark supporter to fill an open seat, strengthening the possibility that the city may approve $50 million in funding for a new Triple-A ballpark for a San Diego Padres farm team.

Michael Morasco, a self-described fiscal conservative, was selected to fill the rest of Sam Abed's council term; it was opened when Abed was elected mayor earlier this fall. The appointment is considered to be key to the ballpark: out of the four seated council members, one is a solid ballpark proponent, two have offered qualified support and one is against. Morasco offered qualified support for the project when applying for the appointment, saying he was generally in favor but wants to see the best deal possible for the city.

The appointment is good news for Jeff Moorad and crew. Three weeks ago we were ready to stick a fork in this deal after municipal elections swept hardcore ballpark proponents out of office, but since then the group buying the Portland Beavers (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) changed course and made several financial concessions (some symbolic, some real) in order to secure more support from the city. We expect more negotiations; it would be a no-brainer, for instance, to demand a percentage of any naming-rights deal.

The background: A group led by San Diego Padres owner Jeff Moorad pitched Escondido on a new ballpark to house the Beavers; the team will play 2011 and probably 2012 at Tucson Electric Park. Moorad has not yet closed on the purchase of the Bevos.

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