Unless ticket prices are raised, cities hosting Cactus League baseball say they'll end up cutting city services to pay a 10 percent ticket surcharge designed to refill the coffers of the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority — and help the Cubs, Brewers and A's with their spring-training needs.
Unless ticket prices are raised, cities hosting Cactus League baseball say they'll end up cutting city services to pay a 10 percent ticket surcharge designed to refill the coffers of the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority.
That's the unintended side effect of the ticket surcharge, which could ultimately help keep the Chicago Cubs in the Cactus League. A 10 percent ticket surcharge would raise upwards of $186 million over 20 years, according to legislative staffers; that would be more than enough to help pay for a new Cubs spring-training facility, keep ASTA on an even financial keel, and kick in new money for new or renovated facilities for the Brewers and the A's.
It is interesting to see this debate unfold in Phoenix; teams and cities are making one set of statements in public and quietly maneuvering the other way in private. Take the Brewers: they've opposed the ticket surcharge from the beginning, but as a team whose lease ends in 2012 they stand to benefit mightily from it. It's no secret Maryvale Baseball Park is a middling facility in a middling area; the team really has no way to increase spring revenues from it. So there has been plenty of private talk about the Brewers wanting either renovations or a new facility elsewhere; there have also been whispers about the Brewers willing to look at a Florida move now that the Seligs have a diminished role with the team. (In general, most GMs, player-personnel managers and operations folks we've chatted with this spring have been dissatisfied with the 15-15 split between Florida and Arizona; while it doesn't heavily impact MLB spring training scheduling, it does make minor-league game scheduling very difficult, and most we chatted with welcomed the idea of a team moving from Arizona to Florida.) And although Phoenix Municipal Stadium was renovated fairly recently (to great effect, we think), word is that Oakland would like to see another upgrade in coming years.
So who would pay for this? ASTA is on the hook for paying off bonds that backed almost all recent spring-training facility construction in the Phoenix area in recent years, and the ticket surcharge would address ASTA's financial issues: ASTA revenues have slowed with the slowdown in the tourism industry in recent years. A 10 percent ticket surcharge would address this and provide enough money to fill the needs of the Cubs, Brewers and A's. (Trivia time: the Brewers and the A's are the only two teams to actually train in Phoenix.)
The ticket surcharge is something that ostensibly would be paid by those actually attending spring-training games, but three cities say they can't pass on the surcharge onto game attendees and would indeed need to pay the charges out of city coffers. In the case of Surprise and Peoria, that means $200,000 annually; in Goodyear, that's $225,000 annually. With many Valley cities in bad financial shape, this would surely mean layoffs.
It's not unusual for Valley cities to squabble like this, and while every Cactus League team opposes the ticket surcharge in public, privately they admit it's something that needs to be done.
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