March 12, 2005
The San Francisco Giants said Friday they will keep their spring training home in Scottsdale until at least 2025 if the city and the Cactus League show they care with a $23.1 million fix-up project.
"It’s a big part of our culture and heritage to come to Arizona every year," said Larry Baer, Giants executive vice president. "The Giants have been in Arizona longer than we’ve been in San Francisco."
The proposed deal, which City Manager Jan Dolan said should easily muster City Council approval, will upgrade practice fields at Indian School Park and build another practice field and infield east of Scottsdale Stadium. To squeeze the new fields into a skimpy four-acre site near the stadium, some adjoining facilities will have to be rearranged, and a portion of 75th Street will be closed permanently.
The City Council is scheduled to vote on the package Tuesday.
The plans also include upgrading the players’ digs at the stadium, building batting tunnels and expanding the clubhouse and fitness center at Indian School Park.
Scottsdale also will build up the berm in right field at the stadium to double the lawn seating area, said Al Dreska, Scottsdale’s municipal services general manager.
The city has to kick in $3.1 million for the improvements plus $430,000 to purchase the rest of the stadiumside land.
The Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority, which gets its funding from hotel and rental car surcharges, will contribute about two-thirds of the total cost, which would be $15.4 million.
Jonathan Garrett, chairman of the Cactus League Committee of the authority, said the Maricopa County Stadium District, which also collects $2.50 surcharges on all rental car transactions in the county, will chip in the remaining amount, which would be $4.6 million.
The Cactus League Committee first has to approve the plan, Garrett said. If the committee gives it a thumbs up, the authority board gets the final say.
"We have a fair deal, and the funding mechanism, in place," Garrett said.
Scottsdale would have to issue bonds to pay for the construction of all the proposed improvements, and the authority would pay the city back, Garrett said.
Local leaders said it’s worth going into debt to keep the Giants at the plate.
The team, whose contract with Scottsdale expires in 2007, said it will sign a new one for 20 years, with an option to renew for another 10, only if it gets better practice facilities.
Otherwise the Giants will seek new quarters. Baer said the team has had calls from other interested locales, but did not pursue them during negotiations with Scottsdale. He did not specify which locations the Giants were considering.
Scottsdale, which has had several previous proposals scrapped because of unhappy residents who don’t want lights, baseball fans or flying baseballs near their homes, rakes in revenue when the Giants are in town.
Out-of-towners spend an estimated $16 million to $21 million in Scottsdale hotels, shops and restaurants every spring, Dolan said.
Among them, Tony Contrestano of Oceanside, Calif., has been bringing his family to Scottsdale for four years, just to see his favorite team step up to the plate.
"We like coming here," he said.
Robert Heisen of Santa Rosa, Calif., has been spending March in Scottsdale every year since 1988.
It’s partly the weather, but mostly the Giants that keep him coming back every year. Heisen said he’d head for Glendale or Peoria instead if the Giants relocated to the West Valley, but he likes staying in Scottsdale and is happy the proposal to keep the Giants in Scottsdale looks set.
"My guess is half of the bodies in the ballpark are from the Bay Area," Baer said. "The Scottsdale resorts, entertainment and night life is great for vacation planning. You can do so much more in Scottsdale."
The Giants, nearly neckand-neck with the Chicago Cubs for attracting out-ofstate fans to spring training, sold about 140,000 tickets last year and is expecting to sell as many this year with one fewer home game, he said.
Dreska said if all the approvals happen as proposed, Scottsdale will start construction in June on all the improvements at and near the stadium and on a couple of the fields at Indian School Park. The construction would be completed by February so as not to affect next year’s games.
Work on the rest of the improvements at Indian School Park, including the expanded clubhouse and fitness center, would begin in June 2006 and be completed before 2007 spring training.