With the California Supreme Court ruling yesterday that the state can indeed eliminate city and county redevelopment agencies, the fate of new ballparks in Escondido and the Bay Area became clearer.
The California Supreme Court not only ruled that the state can eliminate redevelopment agencies — and recapture locally generated revenues in the process — but also ruled that cities and counties cannot continue running redevelopment agencies by paying fees to local school districts and other municipalities. That’s the worst possible scenario for local cities and counties, who were hoping to keep redevelopment agencies open by paying alternate fees. (This decision will hit cities and counties very, very hard: redevelopment funds were also used by many cities and counties to partly pay staff and council salaries. A lot was riding on this court decision.)
For baseball teams in California, the loss of redevelopment funds for new and renovated ballparks puts a serious crimp in future planning. In Escondido, the loss of redevelopment funds will likely kill efforts to build a new ballpark for the relocating Tucson Padres (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), owned by San Diego Padres owner Jeff Moorad. The result should be a sale of the team, as Moorad has openly said he has no interest in owning a team that doesn’t end up in Escondido.
On Christmas Eve USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweeted that the Oakland A’s expected to receive permission to move to San Jose, and now we know why: without redevelopment funds, it’s highly, highly unlikely the city of Oakland can summon the required economic resources to pay for a new Athletics ballpark. (We’re guessing someone tipped off Lew Wolff about this upcoming court decision, and he or someone with the A’s acted as a source for Nightengale.) All along Commissioner Bud Selig has held that Oakland should be given every chance to put together a deal for a ballpark; with that now highly unlikely to happen, making a San Jose ballpark work will probably be the next priority for the commissioner. The Giants braintrust continue to oppose the move of the A’s to San Jose, but many owners know Bud can be pretty persuasive when need be — though surely the A’s will need to pay for access to the territory. Since A’s owner Lew Wolff all along was pitching a privately financed ballpark on land provided by the city, the loss of redevelopment funds won’t impact the project.
Two other ballpark projects in the state, however, are apparently still alive, as they didn’t require redevelopment funds, either. In Bakersfield, the off-again on-again sale of the Bakersfield Blaze (High Class A; California League) is back on, we hear. The plan calls for the sale of the team to investors who would also invest private funds in a new ballpark, a move that will free pro baseball from Sam Lynn Ballpark. In Chico, we hear city officials will continue efforts to use other sources of funds — probably an increase in the sales tax, a move that requires approval by voters — to pay for a new ballpark.
Otherwise, it will become much harder to build a new sports facility in the state, as many new ballparks and ballpark renovations are funded by redevelopment funds. Many Cal League teams, for instance, will forgo any new facilities or expansions because of the lack of redevelopment funds — or be forced to dip into their own funds for the improvements.
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