The decisions Mesa makes regarding the future of a prime piece of real estate near Williams Gateway Airport could have an effect on 12,000 Little League players.
Arizona District 7 Little League has to schedule its 1,000 teams around other users of city and school facilities in Mesa, Gilbert, Queen Creek and Apache Junction. District administrator Chester Petrovsky said they have been unable to keep up with demand in the fast-growing areas on the south and east fringes of the district.
Now, a developer has offered to build and maintain a seven-diamond baseballsoftball complex for the district near Elliot and Ellsworth roads.
This could accommodate up to 70 teams and give the far East Valley leagues more room to grow.
"I think most people would basically die for this opportunity," Petrovsky said.
But the opportunity is caught in the larger conflict between city officials and a developer over whether the area should become a business park or a mixed-use project dominated by houses.
The Planning and Zoning Board is set to vote Thursday on whether the city’s general plan should be amended to allow residential development along the north side of Elliot between Ellsworth and Signal Butte roads, something the city staff has recommended against.
The City Council will have the final say. Mayor Keno Hawker, a longtime proponent of protecting the airport from residential encroachment, said a baseball complex might be a better neighbor for offices and light industry.
"I don’t see how a Little League complex, if it’s crunched up right next to housing, is really all that compatible, especially with some good lighting so the kids can play in the evening when it’s cooler," Hawker said.
Petrovsky said he thinks such a solution may work if offices were built around the complex, but manufacturing and the pollutants that it may produce could be a problem.
LKY Development’s Bill Ring maintains that building the complex won’t be financially feasible unless he can proceed with the mostly residential Acacia project he is proposing.
"We can’t make any money on that property if we try to keep it as a business park. It’ll never get developed in a hundred years. If we build the Acacia development, we can develop almost all of it very quickly," he said.