An El Paso investment group is looking at building a privately financed ballpark in downtown El Paso and buying the Tucson Padres (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) for relocation.
The group, as outlined in today's El Paso Times, would be taking advantage of Escondido, Cal., to close on funding for a new ballpark after the state of California changed how proceeds from redevelopment agencies are distributed; instead of going back into the community, the state dissolved all city and county redevelopment agencies and directed the proceeds to fund essential services.
So that means Tucson Padres (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) owner Jeff Moorad will be looking to sell the franchise he bought from Merritt Paulson, the former Portland Beavers. Tucson is not seen as a permanent home for the team, and it sounds like a deal could be done in a couple months.
Whether the group has enough money or borrowing capacity to build a new downtown ballpark and buy the team remains to be seen. You can do a new bare-boned ballpark for $15 million (as was the case in Pensacola), but that also required a lot of city money for infrastructure. For a Triple-A ballpark, you're probably looking at a minimum of $20 to $25 million to build a ballpark near Union Depot; add in the cost of the team, and you're looking at between $40 million to $50 million, easily. Cohen Stadium would not be part of the mix: the team would play in Tucson until the ballpark is completed. And while El Paso is a safer town than it was in the past, it's not exactly an affluent city, either.
The El Paso group isn't the only one seeking the team; a group from Boise has also met with Moorad about buying the team, which will surely go for more than $17 million if there's a bidding war involved. In Boise, a team would play at a new downtown ballpark; ironically, former El Paso Diablos (Class AA; Texas League) owner Bill Pereira is involved with the Boise bid.
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