Spring training may be totally gone from Tucson, but it looks like the city found a great use for former MLB training facilities: professional MLS soccer will bring six teams to the Kino Stadium complex.
Six MLS teams will be training in Tucson this spring, with four of them set to participate in the Desert Diamond Cup. With the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies moving spring operations to Scottsdale in 2011, the city was left without any MLB spring training for the first time in decades. It was an economic blow for Pima County, which relied on auto-rental taxes and hotel taxes to help pay off debt on spring-training facilities. Efforts to bring in another team or a visiting team from Japan or Korea failed to materialize.
Today, things are a lot different in Tucson. The University of Arizona Wildcats have taken up residence at historic Hi Corbett Field. The Tucson Padres (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) have taken up residency at Kino Stadium. And in the meantime, six MLS teams will be training in Tucson in March, and they’re bringing along enough fans to help fill rooms and bring business to restaurants and bars. The Desert Diamond Cup could draw 50,000 or so fans to Kino Stadium during its two-week run. That’s a pretty amazing comeback for a city looking at some bad economic news after the loss of baseball spring training.
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