The Tucson Padres' long-term future in the Pacific Coast League remains mired in uncertainty, as plans to relocate the club to Escondido, Calif., have suffered a significant setback.
The Padres previously operated as the Portland Beavers, but were forced out of the city after the 2010 season when their PGE Park home was converted to a soccer stadium. San Diego Padres owner Jeff Moorad then purchased the club with the intent of relocating the club to Escondido, a city just 30 miles from San Diego. The team moved to Tucson as a stopgap solution while Moorad's ownership group worked to secure funding for a new stadium in the Escondido area (often referred to as California's "North County").
Those funds may never materialize. The state budget passed by the California legislature in July eliminated redevelopment agencies, and last month the state Supreme Court upheld this decision. This turn of events has stripped Escondido of the public redevelopment funds it would have used to build the stadium. Escondido had supported the idea of a new ballpark, but only if it was paid for by the redevelopment funds. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the city has spent $350,000 on environmental studies in preparation for ballpark construction, in addition to spending more than $11 million on land in the proposed stadium area.
Moorad said his ownership group would "probably sell the team if it is not located in the North County," according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.
"We heard from three cities outside the state," Moorad told the paper, which reported that El Paso, Texas, is among the cities interested. "We have not heard directly from any city inside the state (of California). We needed to wait for the Supreme Court decision before we considered alternatives. In the next 90 days we will know if there is any serious interest in the North County.
"Escondido has been and remains our first choice. At this point, we will reconsider our options," Moorad said. "It is still our preference to be in the North County. Some in the North County are talking about other options. ... Those would have to develop quickly as we also pursue the opportunity to sell the club. We have been patient for more than a year."
The one certainty is that the club will remain in Tucson's Kino Stadium for at least the 2012 season. The facility is a viable option for the team as it previously hosted the PCL's Tucson Sidewinders (who relocated to Reno in 2009) and Major League Spring Training games. The Padres finished last in attendance in the Pacific Coast League last season, drawing 3,410 fans on average (Round Rock led the circuit with more than 8,500 per game).