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Thinking big in Escondido

Portland BeaversThe city of Escondido (Cal.) certainly is thinking big when it comes to a new home for the wandering Portland Beavers (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League): What began as a $50 million ballpark has now expanded to a $180-million, 150-acre Sports Entertainment District, which could tie up every penny of city development money for years.

A study from the London Group indicated that the market could support a new development with 760,000 square feet of commericial and retail space, more than 3,000 homes at least two hotels. Because of the new tax revenues generated by the project, the city could afford to issue bonds upwards of $180 million and use other city redevelopment money to pay for the rest.

Anchoring the development: a $50-million ballpark for the Beavers.

The study looks to be a fairly standard one found in development circles, looking at the region’s demographics and extrapolating further growth. It also lays out a fairly standard development schedule over the next five to seven years.

Therein lies the rub. At the present Escondido’s redevelopment fund is in the red because of prior commitments, though it’s projected to be in the black by the end of the decade. To do this project, Escondido needs to pledge pretty much every penny of city redevelopment money but also hope the economic dramatically improves: the development alone will only yield $2.1 million annually in local sales and hotel taxes. Plus, the plan doesn’t call for the new ballpark to open until 2015.

Which pose a problem for San Diego Padres owner Jeff Moorad, who wants to see a new ballpark open in 2012. This was always considered a very, very tight deadline, forcing the city to come up with a financing plan by the end of November. Whether the city can come up with a financing plan for such a huge development by the end of November and be ready to begin ballpark construction shortly afterwards remains to be seen — but it wouldn’t surprise us to see the Beavers play more than just a single season in Tucson.

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