With uncertainty surrounding the future of California’s economic-development system, Escondido Mayor Sam Abed says it’s time to think less about a new California ballpark for the Tucson Padres (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) and instead to focus more on using the ballpark site for a technology park.
Currently the city is working on preparing 15 acres for some sort of development: hazardous waste at the site is being cleaned up, and this would need to be done in any case. The first real big decision will come this summer when it comes to a $2 million-plus buyout of the North County Transit District for relocation of a bus maintenance yard. The yard will need to be moved if a new ballpark is in the works; it will stay if the site is used as a technology park.
Escondido’s ability to sell bonds to cover the $50 million cost of a new ballpark is certainly iffy. The state of California is still coveting city and council economic-development proceeds, and although the state Assembly rebuffed an effort by Gov. Jerry Brown to claim those future revenues to cover basic services, the plan is still alive. Add to that the fact that Escondido is currently tapped out in terms of economic-development funds anyway: any bonds now wouldn’t generate income until 2014 at the earliest because existing projects need to be covered. If the ballpark project is to continue, bonds would need to be issued before the end of year, with construction starting in January.
And some perspective is needed. Escondido operates on a city manager/weak mayor system, so while Abed has more powers than the average City Council member, he can’t kill the ballpark on his own; the full City Council would need to make that decision. A lot can happen between now and the fall, and it sounds like the attitude shown by City Manager Clay Phillips and T-Pods owner Jeff Moorad — stay the course until a big decision needs to be made — is the one that will carry the day.
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