Dodgers, White Sox near Glendale deal

Dodgers, White Sox near Glendale deal

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Los Angeles Dodgers, who for more than a half-century have held Spring Training a continent removed from one of baseball's most ardent fan bases, moved a giant step closer on Wednesday to shifting their preseason camp to Arizona when this Phoenix suburb's city council unanimously approved the final step to building a new two-team complex.

The Glendale City Council's meeting to vote on a Memorandum of Understanding with the Dodgers and proposed co-tenants White Sox turned into a mere formality, a brisk two-minute process.

Then the big projection screen in front of the Council Chambers flashed alive with the logos of the Dodgers and White Sox sandwiching Glendale's city logo.

All parties immediately lauded the prospective partnership.

"This will be of tremendous benefit to our fans, bringing us a lot closer to them," said Camille Johnston, the Dodgers' senior vice president of communications. "And we'll have an opportunity to develop new fans."

The council's approval of the memorandum was the final requisite in a process to secure supplemental funding from the Arizona Sports Authority for the planned sports and entertainment complex 10 miles northwest of Phoenix, but that process already is well under way.

In his pre-vote remarks to councilmembers, Glendale city manager Ed Beasley referred to the memorandum as "the third and final step before the appropriate applications can be filed."

Beasley then added that the first two steps -- securing control of the property, and a financial strategy -- "are under way, or already completed."

The property in question is a 400- to 500-acre parcel that would include a 120-acre training site. Shops, restaurants, a hotel and an 18-hole golf course would surround the baseball facility, with funding provided by a conglomerate of city, state and private-developer sources.

The training facilities envisioned for the Dodgers and White Sox are beyond state-of-the-art. Each team will have two Major League and four Minor League practice fields, additional workout fields and a 42,000-square-foot clubhouse. The teams would share a 12,000-seat stadium with lawn seating for an additional 3,000.

So there are no foreseeable obstacles to the so-called Glendale Project, partnering this can-do city with two have-done baseball franchises.

Speculation is that the Dodgers have been promised word of the project's all-systems-go resolution before they depart for Florida in February for their 59th Spring Training in Vero Beach. They are expected to make that 60 before the Glendale Project's anticipated 2009 opening.

Thus, for the second time in their history, the Dodgers will be breaking a great tradition by going West. Except this time -- unlike in 1958, when their move from Brooklyn opened up MLB's Pacific frontier -- they will be following the crowd.

For years the Dodgers have been the lone team in the Majors' West divisions to train in Florida.

"By having them finally come to Arizona, we feel like we've completed our mission," said Jeff Schotzki, the executive director of the Arizona Baseball and Softball Commission.

Even Tom Lasorda, who has attended Spring Training in Vero Beach since 1949, the year after the camp opened, said on Wednesday of the move to Arizona, "It's time. I love Vero Beach, but this will make it so much easier for our fans to see us."

There will be other benefits of the proximity to Los Angeles, such as a rehabilitation facility for injured players that is already being considered.

"This will add to what we've already created in Glendale -- a sports and entertainment destination that will be the best of its kind in the entire region," said Glendale Mayor Elaine M. Scruggs, clearly making an allusion to the 12 Spring Training camps already in the state. "This will be a Cactus League Spring Training experience like no other."

The Dodgers were represented at the announcement by Howard Sunkin, senior vice president of public affairs; Travis McCourt, of the Baseball Operations department; Lasorda, special advisor to the chairman; and Johnston.

Roland Hemond, executive advisor to general manager Ken Williams, represented the White Sox -- who will have to find a suitable replacement team for Tucson Electric Park for an amicable departure from what has been their spring base since 1998.

"We've had a great association with Tucson, and it will continue in the interim," Hemond said. "We will have to come up with an alternative team, and I'm very confident that will take place."

Sitting side by side, Hemond and Lasorda represented a cumulative Major League experience of 111 years.

"These are two storied organizations which will certainly attract a lot of fans and people to Glendale," Hemond said.

Lasorda told the assemblage in the Council Chambers, "You are bringing to the area two outstanding organizations which will exemplify what Major League teams are all about. We're all excited, and really looking forward to great things."

The Glendale Project, which has been in the planning stages for a mere 10 months, according to Scruggs, would add to the crowning achievements of a community that already hosts the Phoenix Coyotes of the NHL and the Arizona Cardinals of the NFL.

The big difference with this development is that it is the first targeted for the area west of Loop 101, the more distant side of the highway circling greater Phoenix.

"We now have a track record," Scruggs said. "Each of our past projects has produced as we thought it would. So you know you can count on the city of Glendale."

Tom Singer is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.