The bat must be swung - Tucson Local Media: Editorials

The bat must be swung

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Posted: Tuesday, March 31, 2009 11:00 pm

Pima County, Tucson and Marana are taking another swing at spring training baseball.

A proposal, submitted to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday and released to the public on Monday, suggests a $125 million stadium and spring training complex in Marana, specifically at the juncture of West Tangerine Road and Interstate 10.

The Pima County Sports and Tourism Authority wants the Colorado Rockies, the Diamondbacks and a third Major League baseball team to train and play ball in Marana, with some games at Hi Corbett Field. The authority is also talking to baseball teams from Japan, the nation that won the World Baseball Classic, about training with the big leaguers.

Immediately, the proposal affirms that Marana’s Tangerine corridor is a future growth hot corner in the Northwest. It might be baseball, it might be commercial and retail activity, it might be automobile dealerships. Regardless, open land, transportation access, proximity to greater Phoenix and a public desire to grow come together at Tangerine and I-10.

A hurdle for the Pima proposal — it’s one of many. Published reports Saturday indicate at least eight such plans were submitted in response to a D’Backs request for a 13,000-seat stadium, 12 practice fields, and clubhouses on up to 140 acres of land. Three of those proposals are from Arizona tribes, which have money and thinner bureaucracy. Another comes from Casa Grande, which is voting in May on a bond issue to build a spring training complex.

The competition is fierce. Oh, to be a baseball team, worth millions, and having communities prepared to throw huge money into facilities so you’ll spend six weeks or so among them each spring.

Another hurdle for the proposal — money. The Pima County Sports and Tourism Authority doesn’t have money, nor does it have the authority to get money. It would need a voter-approved bond issue, no later than 2010, and the ability to generate taxes from travel-related businesses such as hotels, car rentals, food and beverage vendors. Tall cans of corn (in the baseball vernacular, a sky-high pop-up), those. Can taxpayers be persuaded to spend their money on baseball facilities in this economic climate? It’ll be a challenge.

Yet Pima County must swing the bat. If nothing is done, nothing will happen, and the D’Backs and Rockies will head elsewhere to train. The greater Tucson economy doesn’t depend on the Boys of Spring, but their presence helps. We must do what we can to keep spring training.

There’s a group, Bases Loaded Tucson, that advocates for spring training. It is asking people to take themselves out to the ballgame this Thursday, April 2, when the Rockies and Diamondbacks play at 12:05 p.m. at Tucson Electric Park.

Play ball, Tucson?

Yes, the Arizona Wildcats got whacked by Louisville in the Sweet 16 last Thursday. That outcome takes away nothing from a glistening season.

Russ Pennell, Mike Dunlap, the staff and this basketball team gave great memories to the university, and the community. Who’d have thought in October, when Lute retired, that these ‘Cats would reach a Sweet 16? That’s a difficult accomplishment for any program, let alone one in turmoil.

Congratulations, ‘Cats, and thanks.

Pennell may not be Arizona’s next head coach – that drama is about to play out. But the coaching dominos are already falling, at Kentucky and Washington State and Virginia, and they’ll keep tumbling this spring. Pennell is on the hoops radar, and he’ll land a good job at a quality program. His teams will compete and carry themselves the right way. And we’ll be watching.

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