Jay Zucker is suing to get back the Tucson Toros (independent; North American League) lease to Hi Corbett Field after it was terminated by the city last June.
The issue: Zucker, the former owner of the Tucson Sidewinders (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) held a lease for the Toros, who played the 2009 and 2010 seasons at Hi Corbett Field before suspending operations for the 2011 season. Zucker says the Toros continued to pay rent and hold events at the ballpark, but the city wasn’t happy with that arrangement and terminated the lease in June 2011. (We’re guessing this was due to a fairly standard ballpark clause where the leaseholder promises to play professional baseball at the facility; no team, no lease.) The lease termination allowed Tucson officials to sign a five-year lease with the University of Arizona.
Zucker is in court, claiming the lease termination was unlawful. The city locked him out of the ballpark, and he’s asking a Pima County court to retain his lease. He’s not against sharing the ballpark with the Arizona Wildcats, however.
There are some serious consequences here. For starters, the independent North American League needs all the franchises it can get; we’re pretty sure the Lake County Fielders won’t be back, and there are constant rumblings about other defections as well. The league website lists several new teams for 2012, but some, like the Omaha Flame, are pretty much a pipe dream at this point. There are ten teams in the NAL fold at the moment if you count San Rafael, but that’s a little misleading: four of them are Texas teams who did not play against other NAL teams during the 2011 season. The real core of the NAL is down to six teams, and Tucson may be needed to keep things together for 2012.
Photo of Hi Corbett Field by Jack Kurtz, taken during a Colorado Rockies spring-training game.
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