Plans for a Triple-A ballpark in Escondido are dead. The Padres minor league team, currently located in temporary housing in Tucson, Arizona may either have to find a new home, or find a new city. They won’t be playing in Escondido. According to a San Diego Union Tribune report, the State legislature took away redevelopment funds that were vital for the ballpark to be built in Escondido, and the State Supreme Court upheld the ruling.
While Tucson only has a contract with the Padres through the 2012 season to continue hosting the Triple-A club, it is very possible the team remains in Tucson. After hosting the Toros, then the Sidewinders for decades, Tucson lost its minor league affiliation when the Sidewinders moved to Reno. However, Jeff Moorad, who also own the Padres’ Triple-A club, moved the team from Portland to Tucson as a temporary measure while working on a ballpark deal in Escondido. Now, Moorad says he plans to sell the team. If that’s the case, the future of the club and its location will be dependent on the new owners.
Tucson has always had a rich baseball history. They city hosted the Tucson Old Pueblos of the Rio Grande Association in 1915. Then, 13 years later, Tucson got itself another team, the Tucson Waddies, as part of the Arizona State League. The next year, they renamed the team the Tucson Cowboys. Minor league baseball continued throughout the 20th century and the 21st century eventually leading to Major League affiliation with the Chicago White Sox in 1969, Below is the minor league baseball history in Tucson according to Baseball-Reference:
As Tucson became affiliated with the Arizona Diamondbacks, a new ballpark was built southeast of town. The ballpark, at the time, was state of the art. However, it has since been passed by in terms of technology, seating, accommodations, and other aspects by many other Triple-A and Spring Training stadiums. In addition, the location made it difficult to attract casual fans. The park is not near the downtown area. It is not near the University of Arizona. It is not near any heavily populated areas even. As a result attendance suffered.
After enduring years of dwindling attendance, the Tucson Sidewinders moved to Reno and Triple-A baseball was dead in Tucson. However, Jeff Moorad and the Padres breathed new life into hopes that the city could sustain a minor league team. Last season’s attendance was moderate, but not horrible. The city embraced the Tucson Padres a little better than they had the Sidewinders. Perhaps it is because of Tucson’s relationship with San Diego. Many Tucsonans travel to San Diego for vacation and fall in love with the city. Conversely, many San Diegans and Southern Californians come to Tucson to attend the University of Arizona.
Going forward, it will be interesting to see if Tucson can maintain its grasp on the Padres’ minor league club. Much of the decision will depend on Moorad, his decision to sell or not, and if the team is sold, the new owners. However, Tucson can help itself with solid attendance numbers and a good showing in 2012.
No matter what happens, it seems unlikely that San Diego County will see minor league baseball in its future. They’ll just have to settle for a Major League club.