Funding approved for new spring home

Funding approved for new spring home

The Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority on Thursday approved funding for a new Spring Training facility in Glendale, Ariz., that would be shared by the Dodgers and White Sox.

A memorandum of understanding between the city of Glendale and the two Major League teams was struck on Nov. 11, beginning the process of moving the Dodgers from their longtime spring home in Vero Beach, Fla., and moving the White Sox to the Phoenix metropolitan area from Tucson.

The step taken Thursday by the AZSTA, which also approved funding for a facility for the Indians in nearby Goodyear, is the next important one in a process both teams hope leads to them training together in Glendale by 2009.

"Today's decision by the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority is great news for the many White Sox fans transplanted from Chicago," White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a club statement. "With today's decision, both the White Sox and Dodgers can begin to take the necessary next steps to move Spring Training to The Valley."

The Dodgers echoed the sentiment that it's a good move forward in the process.

"This is another step in the right direction, but there's more work to be done after the first of the year," Dodgers senior vice president of communications Camille Johnston said.

Located west of the 101 Loop northwest of Phoenix, the property slated for the facility 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.

Each team would 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.

While the Dodgers are on target for the move in 2009, the White Sox still have to find a replacement team to take up the remainder of their lease in Tucson, which runs through 2013. Reinsdorf remains "very optimistic" that the club will be able to work with Pima County to bring another Major League club in to share their current facility with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Cleveland was one of the possibilities to replace the White Sox in Tucson, but clearly that plan has changed with the approval of funding for the Indians to move to Goodyear. At a minimum, the White Sox will spend Spring Training in Tucson for the 2007 and 2008 seasons, and at the maximum, the organization has six more springs in Tucson.

Pima County has the ultimate right of refusal on the team brought on to replace the White Sox at the Kino Sports Complex facility, meaning the White Sox could hypothetically strike a deal with one of the more prominent teams in Florida and still have the deal rejected. But it seemingly would behoove the county to work in conjunction with the White Sox, who are moving to Glendale at one point or the other.

A new team would probably opt for a long-team lease. The worst-case scenario is a reduction in Tucson by one team going into Spring Training in 2013.

The White Sox certainly are set to fulfill their commitment in Tucson, and they fully intend to work within a strong partnership with Pima County to find a suitable replacement. For now, the next step toward Glendale has been taken.

"I cannot say enough to compliment Mayor [Elaine] Scruggs of Glendale, Mayor [Phil] Gordon of Phoenix and their staffs on their willingness to work with each of the teams to make this project a reality," Reinsdorf said. "We appreciate today's decision by the AZSTA, and we are excited about plans for the shared facility in Glendale, as well as the potential impact of the partnership between these two franchises and these two cities."