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Escondido ballpark vote delayed after pollution found at site

Portland BeaversA vote from Escondido (Cal.) officials to approve $50 million in spending for a new home for the Portland Beavers (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) has been delayed after city officials discovered pollution on the ballpark site.

In addition, the city is still negotiating a lease with an ownership group led by San Diego Padres owner Jeff Moorad.

The soil on one of the sites was found to be contaminated with gasoline, and the issue is who pays for the cleanup. No surprise: when you look to put ballparks on former industrial sites, you’re usually going to find some level of contimination.

The question of who pays for the cleanup is an important one: the city and Moorad agreed to cap the city’s total contribution for the ballpark at $40 million and infrastructure improvements at $10 million. Still, given that the city is using future development funds to pay back bonds issued for the ballpark, the cost of borrowing is projected to be quite high, perhaps doubling the cost of the project.

Because of the need to open the ballpark as soon as possible — 2012 — the project needs to be approved this fall by the city. The current timeline calls for a memorandum of understanding between Moorad and the city to be approved Oct. 27, with the final approval of the ballpark project coming on Nov. 30. Moorad would then close on the sale of the Beavers on Dec. 1 or so.

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