In a chicken-and-egg situation, San Diego Padres owner Jeff Moorad says he’s willing to buy the homeless Portland Beavers if Escondido builds a new ballpark — but nothing will happen on either front for months, leaving the rest of the Pacific Coast League in limbo.
Escondido (Cal.) officials sound pretty confident they can put together a financing deal for a new ballpark for the Portland Beavers (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) for the 2012 season, assuming they can approve a plan in November. The plan, as it’s been described to us by city officials, is speculative and ties up most of the city’s borrowing capacity for a number of years. Also, the lease as presented by Moorad pretty much pledges all revenue from the ballpark to the relocated Beavers.
How on earth will Escondido pay off the bonds issued to pay for the ballpark? By increased tax revenue generated from development surrounding the ballpark — but not the ballpark itself. Relying on a ballpark as an economic engine is always an iffy deal: it usually doesn’t work, which is why the smart folks in baseball never make those sorts of predictions. (Indeed, look at Target Field: the Twins were shrewd enough to position public funding as a quality-of-life issue, not an economic issue — and the new ballpark still managed to make a huge financial impact already in downtown Minneapolis.)
The plan would have the city pay for a new ballpark with bonds backed by revenues from the city redevelopment agency, generated for the next 26 years. Because these bonds would be speculative — the state has the right to seize these funds to balance the state budget — the terms would be exorbitant, sending the cost of a $45 million ballpark to $90 million.
If Moorad does buy the Beavers, they’ll play in Lake Elsinore, at the Single-A park that’s currently the home of the Lake Elsinore Storm (High Class A; California League).
To complicate things, Moorad says he won’t follow through on a purchase until a ballpark decision in Escondido is reached, which totally kills the plans of Merritt Paulson to sell the team this month. Without a new ballpark, we’re guessing Moorad walks away from the deal — and however confident Escondido officials are about wanting to build a new ballpark, the real power lies with the folks issuing the bonds.
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