Because he may conditionally sell the Tucson Padres (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), owner Jeff Moorad is demanding a commitment from Escondido to build a $50M ballpark — with no funding assured.
As you’ll recall, the city backed away from the idea of public financing of a new ballpark for Moorad, also the owner of the San Diego Padres, until it was assured community-redevelopment funds would be available. In his last state budget, Gov. Jerry Brown laid claim to a good chunk of money available to city and county redevelopment agencies, including Escondido’s. Brown’s actions led to a lawsuit from the League of California Cities and the California Redevelopment Association, claiming they were unconstitutional. That lawsuit is expected to be decided by the California Supreme Court by Jan. 15, 2012.
Which is why Escondido officials were taking a wait-and-see attitude toward funding of the ballpark. Besides, even with redevelopment money available, a new Escondido ballpark is far from a slam-dunk; there’s potential pollution problems with the site, and Escondido has already committed redevelopment monies for several years into the future. Besides, even if Brown’s act is overturned, it may not be overturned all the way, leaving the city with some, but not all, of its expected future redevelopment funds.
So it’s a little surprising Moorad is demanding a commitment. The potential deal, as described in the North County Times, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to us. Moorad wants a deal now to give himself an out during the process of selling the team. It’s pretty clear Moorad doesn’t want to own the team if an Escondido ballpark falls through, and there are buyers out there for a Pacific Coast League team with a short-term lease commitment, a la Tucson. Still, Moorad could easily begin the process of selling the team and place a condition on a potential buyer that he refuses the right to withdraw the team sale if an Escondido ballpark materializes. He doesn’t need an agreement with Escondido to do that.
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