A proposal to keep the San Francisco Giants playing spring baseball in Scottsdale by building training facilities on the Coronado Golf Course scored a run with everyone involved Friday.
Everyone but golfers, that is.
Giants executives bluntly told city officials they won’t renew their contract at Scottsdale Stadium if they don't get new training facilities. Their contract expires in 2007. Officials proposed the Coronado concept Thursday.
"It's crucial that we keep the Giants here in Scottsdale," City Councilwoman Cynthia Lukas said. "That's a huge signature event for our city. It seems like a very positive step for us if we can work it out with the neighbors."
City officials are considering turning the 44-acre golf course and driving range on the southeast corner of Miller and Thomas roads into an $18 million, 15-acre unlighted facility with a clubhouse, two full-size playing fields, a smaller practice infield and some specialized training areas. The remaining 29 acres, most of which is in Indian Bend Wash, would be preserved as open space.
Golfer John Baerden said it would be a shame if the course was taken away. Baerden and his family come to Scottsdale every summer from British Columbia and play Coronado. "We've been coming to this course for 10 years now," he said.
Scottsdale resident Sid Lesser also opposed the idea. "If they put a practice field here, then I want a golf course down at Los Arcos and I want it to have the same fees as this one."
Neighbors, however, like the idea.
John Greco's home in Villa Coronado faces east toward the golf course. With proper setbacks, quality architecture, and low-use stipulations, "it can be a win-win all around," the retired Tempe city manager said.
"If it's done correctly, it could benefit the entire neighborhood," Greco said. "The only thing I think needs to happen, is that everyone have a say in what it looks like. We don't want the open space to change from what it is now."
Supporters said reasons for keeping the Giants in town lie somewhere between cash flow and community pride.
Spring training fans dump money into city coffers, restaurants, hotels and bars while elevating the city's image with a major league status symbol.
"The main thing you can't discount is its huge economic impact," said Rachel Sacco, president and CEO of the Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau. "It's an event that truly touches just about every business — hotels, restaurants, retail, golf courses, spas."
Scottsdale led all cities in Cactus League attendance last year. More than 133,000 people went to the downtown Scottsdale Stadium to see the Giants’ exhibition games.
And the spectators were mostly considered tourists: 61 percent of the people who attended the games were from outside Maricopa County, according to a city study of the 2003 season.
Their median hotel stay in Scottsdale was nearly five nights, and the median amount of money spent during that time was $333 for every two people.
Overall, baseball fans spent $13.5 million in Scottsdale, the city estimates.
City Councilman Ned O'Hearn said the proposal is the best option for the city because Scottsdale no longer has abundant land on which to build new facilities.
"We absolutely need to keep the Giants," O'Hearn said. "There might be some golfers who are upset, but you have to make choices.”
Business leaders agreed it would be devastating to lose the team.
"They are a big-time economic driver for this community, even if they are here for a short time," said Rick Kidder, public policy director for the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce.
If the facility is built, the city will "definitely" want a 20-year agreement with the Giants, assistant city manager Barbara Burns said. A $1-per-ticket surcharge the team has agreed to for funding would last for the 20-year term of the agreement. That money would be used to pay debt on construction bonds, Burns said.
The city and the Scottsdale Charros, the volunteer service organization that contracts with the Giants to play in Scottsdale, have been talking with the team sporadically for the last four years about improving training facilities at Indian School Park, Burns said.
There are no backup sites in mind if the Coronado location doesn’t pan out, Burns said. Sites at Scottsdale Community College and on adjacent land on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community were rejected because they were too expensive, too far from the stadium, and not inside city limits.
The issue probably won't go before the City Council for debate for six to nine months.
If the proposal becomes reality, construction would start in winter 2005.