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New life for new California ballparks?

Oakland AthleticsNew ballparks in California for Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball teams are again economically feasible, as California legislators reject an attempt by Gov. Jerry Brown to divert city and county economic-redevelopment funds to fund basic services.

We’re talking three ballparks here: a new Oakland Athletics ballpark either in San Jose or Oakland; a new Escondido ballpark, and a new Cal League ballpark.

Development on all three ballparks had been slowed to one degree or another by Brown’s attempt to balance the state budget on the back of redevelopment funds. In Escondido, work on a new ballpark for the Tucson Padres (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) had ground to a halt, but it’s now showing signs of life. The rebuke to Brown gives the city a window of opportunity, but it still faces plenty of challenges before a shovel hits the ground; for example, the city’s redevelopment fund is totally tapped out until 2014, so a creative financing method would be needed to fund the $50 million project. Still, the city and team owner Jeff Moorad have been quietly acquiring land for the project and discussing additional ancillary development, and the City Council might be in a position to approve the deal in May.

Similarly, San Jose’s redevelopment fund is close to being tapped out; in the past Oakland A’s owner Lew Wolff has offered to lend the fund money acquire the land needed to get the privately financed ballpark moving. The fact that redevelopment funds appear to be safe for the moment will once again fuel talk of what it will take to get a new ballpark for the A’s — and will force Bud Selig’s hand on the issue of relovating the team into the San Francisco Giants‘ territory.

Brown vows to go after the redevelopment funds again, so we might be talking a short reprieve. Still, the funds are popular with politicians of almost all political stripes, and it’s hard to see the California Assembly backing off after taking such a strong stand.

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