If you’ve been following the Twitter feed, you’d know that tonight I’ve been following the Escondido city council’s decision on whether to move forward with its $50 million AAA ballpark plan for the Padres.
The City Council voted 5-0 on two items: to move forward with EIR work and the acquisition of some land that would be needed for the ballpark. The last item was a MOU that brought more questions than answers among the Council and public speakers. Because of these questions, the Council chose to approve the MOU 4-1, with every Council member expressing reservations in an effort to get a better deal down the road.
A better deal than what, you ask? Let’s break down this $50 million, 9,000-seat ballpark:
- $40 million for ballpark construction
- $5.1 million for remaining land acquisition for the ballpark alone
- $0.4 million for demolition
- $0.5 million for paving a parking lot
- $6 million for additional property acquisition (relocations)
- $5 million for infrastructure
- $0.5 million for current expenses
- $2.5 million for contingency costs
A little addition shows that the cost above totals $60 million, not $50 million as advertised. To help shore this up, Jeff Moorad and his partners will pony up $5 million. That leaves a gap of some $5 million, money that is not accounted for yet. The city is also getting the team to pay a lease of $200,000 annually, adjusted for inflation every 5 years. There’s a serious shortfall between that lease payment and the debt service on the $50 million, though the Council didn’t seem overly concerned, citing revenues from other sources (generally other taxes including tax increment).
There are multiple opportunities for the City to back away from the project. As is customary with big projects, staff were quick to explain that a MOU is not a binding contract, and that if the Council doesn’t approve any of the subsequent necessary steps (lease terms, development agreement), the project won’t move forward. Those decisions aren’t really due until February. While the Council made it clear they want to get a better deal, Moorad was equally clear in his statement as the last speaker of the night. Moorad was not really open to reopening the deal, and he was afraid that the ballpark may not get built due to “death by a thousand paper cuts.” We’ll see if the agreement in the end has any significant material changes. For now, it’s a serious gamble by Escondido, one that will tie up its redevelopment funds for up to 25 years.
The public speaker discussion was, other than for a nasty racial debate component, somewhat reminiscent of what I saw in Fremont. Fremont is a good analogue because like Escondido, it’s trying to make a splash as a city that’s not particularly large. The types of discussions Escondido citizens are having about the ballpark could happen nearly anywhere, and with the San Jose Giants possible moving elsewhere, it’s likely those discussions will happen somewhere else. It’s quite likely that this Escondido deal will create a sort of baseline for what the Giants (Bill Neukom and partners) will ask for elsewhere in the Bay Area.
A Triple-A ballpark is larger than the typical Single-A ballpark. Here’s a partial list of California minor league teams and stadium capacities:
- San Jose Municipal Stadium – 4,200
- Banner Island Ballpark (Stockton) – 5,500, $22 million cost in 2005
- John Thurman Field (Modesto) – 4,000
- Clear Channel Stadium (Lancaster) – 4,600, $14.5 million in 1996
- Raley Field (Sacramento) – 11,000, $42 million in 2000
- Chukchansi Park (Fresno) – 12,500, $46 million in 2002
- Aces Ballpark (Reno, NV) – 9,100, $50 million in 2009
With inflation, a new Single-A park (~5,000 seats) would probably cost somewhere north of $25 million, though land cost could make that price tag vary considerably. Any city that might consider such a project would be smart to have it somewhere there is already a decent amount of public parking, along with BART, Caltrain, or even Capitol Corridor. The North Bay, which I’ve always thought would be a natural fit for a Giants minor league team, has none of those transit options. Yet I don’t consider transportation much of a deterrent, as I expect several groups to come out of the woodwork hoping to land the team if the A’s move to San Jose.
You know what it means if that happens? My work on this blog will NEVER end.