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Padres raise ante in Escondido ballpark negotiations

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San Diego Padres
Jeff Moorad and crew have agreed to several financial concessions regarding a new Triple-A ballpark in Escondido, Cal., but there's a good chance the city will be seeking more before they go ahead with a $50-million facility.

The basics of the deal are the same -- the city would borrow money to build the ballpark and the Tucson Padres (which apparently is the temporary name of the team until a name-the-franchise contest can be completed in Tucson) would receive all the revenues.

The changes are on the fringe of the deal: Moorad's group would pick up any cost overruns past the $40 million slated for the ballpark itself; agree to a longer (30-year) lease; and contribute $5 million toward infrastructure improvements needed for the ballpark construction; and give up a request for 10 acres of land adjacent to the ballpark. The land could then be used by the city for development; short-term, it's expected to serve as parking for games.

It's not clear whether these concessions would be enough to sway the no votes on the Council. There's still a lot of concern about the cost of the project: Besides the ballpark itself, there is between $13 million and $17 million needed to prepare the site for construction, including land acquisition, buying out businesses and moving a transit hub. Then there is the cost of borrowing the money; it's expected the city will need to pay a higher-than-normal interest rate because of the precariousness of planned income streams into city redevelopment coffers.

In the meantime, the status of the franchise remains in limbo: Moorad has pushed back the closing of the purchase of the Portland Beavers (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) to Dec. 20, leaving the team technically in the hands of Merritt Paulson for now. There's still no lease for the team, and there's apparently the chance Moorad could walk away from the purchase of the Bevos if the City Council rejects the ballpark proposal. Could end up being a sloppy situation all around.

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