Tucson is in the midst of revoking the Hi Corbett Field lease from the Tucson Toros (independent; North American League), as the city and Pima County look at big changes at where baseball teams play.
The Toros played two seasons in the North American League before going on hiatus when the Tucson Padres (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) moved to Tucson this past offseason from Portland, Ore. Toros owner Jay Zucker still held the lease to Hi Corbett Field, and there were negotiations to bring the Padres to Hi Corbett before the decision was made to place the franchise at Kino Stadium, the former spring home of the Chicago White Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks and the former regular-season home of the Tucson Sidewinders (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League).
However, there’s a lot of potential change on the facilities front in Tucson, and probably a reason why the Hi Corbett lease is being revoked. Tucson and Pima County are negotiating to bring Major League Soccer onboard as a major tenant at the Kino Stadium complex; MLS would hold spring training at the complex and hold a Desert Cup tournament series at a stadium. Not a bad ideal for either MLS or Tucson, provided the numbers can work.
But to work, either Hi Corbett Field or Kino Stadium needs to be converted to soccer; drainage patterns for a baseball field are significantly different than those for a soccer field, so it’s not really desirable to have the two coexist. This probably isn’t a problem for all concerned (Pima County’s willing to pick up the costs), except for one small factor: there’s a group in Tucson who thinks there’s a chance MLB spring training could return (something we just don’t see happening), so there will always be those who insist facilities remain as is for baseball.
Still, if MLS commits to spring training in Tucson, the city and county are looking at something that could generate enough revenue to make locals forget about baseball. If Kino Stadium is converted to soccer, there’s a scenario where the Tucson Padres could end up playing at historic Hi Corbett Field — a move that could dramatically improve walk-up sales for T-Pods game, as there’s an actual neighborhood in the area — and the University of Arizona wants to use Hi Corbett Field next season as well. So facilities that were basically empty a year ago are now suddenly in demand, an abundance of riches clearly unanticipated.
Edited to reflect length of Toros’ tenure in North American League.
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