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Escondido approves Triple-A ballpark — with reservations

Pacific Coast LeagueThe Escondido (Cal.) City Council gave initial approval to city funding of a new $50-million Triple-A ballpark project, but warned that any final agreement would be subject to further negotiations over potential revenues from team concessions and naming rights. Meanwhile, Jeff Moorad will move forward with a purchase of the Portland Beavers franchise.

Moorad got the hint that he needed to apply a lighter touch to negotiations with city officials over the proposed Triple-A ballpark, and he was rewarded last night when the City Council voted 4-1 to move forward, subsequent to future negotiations.

When the San Diego Padres owner and crew approached the city for a deal, they presented perhaps the most one-sided lease agreement we’ve ever seen, putting no money up front and receiving all ballpark revenues along with land for development. Since then the Padres braintrust retreated from that proposal, offering to cover overruns, contributing money up front and backing off demand for free or low-priced land for development. It was good enough to sway skeptical councilors, who voted 4-1 last night to move forward with the ballpark deal for 2013.

Still, the Council signaled it will need more changes before construction actually begins next year: they want more money from the Moorad group as well as a share of revenues from concessions and naming rights. Technically, the Council didn’t actually approve the lease agreement: it directed the city to use the contract as a “template” for further negotiations.

We’re not sure if some of the changes sought by the city really are deal-breakers; Moorad has shown flexibility in recent weeks and would come out looking like a hero if he gave in to a few changes. His reps indicated they were willing to talk, and Moorad is reportedly optimistic enough that he’s moving forward on the purchase of the Portland Beavers (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), slated to close on Monday. The team will play in Tucson for the next two seasons while the Escondido ballpark is under construction.

Some highlights from the agreement:

  • The team will pay $200,000 annually in rent, adjusted for inflation every five years. In addition, the team will contribute $150,000 annually toward a capital reserve fund. The team will also be responsible for ballpark maintenance and management.
  • The team will receive all revenues, including proceeds from suites (there will be 14 of them; 10 regular suites, one suite for the team, one for the city, and two group suites) and naming rights (subject to city approval).
  • Construction will begin at the beginning of 2012, with a 2013 season opening.
  • The city will pay $40 million for the ballpark and $50 million on the project. Anything above $40 million will be covered by the team, and the team will contribute $5 million toward a contingency fund covering other overruns.
  • The team will sign a 30-year lease with two five-year options, with all terms and bindings transferable to a new owner.
  • The team will commit to nine non-baseball events per year.
  • The ballpark will have a capacity of 9,000, with 7,500 fixed seats. A club level will contain the suites, two party areas and a lounge.

You can view the MOU here in PDF format.

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