State lawmaking saved spring-training baseball 14 years ago. State lawmaking is about to dismantle it for no other reason than spite. Legislators backing Senate Bill 1264 should find their maturity and leave it alone, or risk its coming apart and moving out of the state entirely.
Arizona nearly lost the configuration of teams known as the Cactus League in 1990, when aging stadiums and practice facilities led them to hear the sirens’ songs of cities in other Sun Belt states eager to build ballparks for them.
Legislation that created a rental-car and hotel-room tax created a fund for stadium construction and the league remained intact.
In 2000, Maricopa County voters approved Proposition 302, which provided public funding for the new Arizona Cardinals football stadium as well as funding to promote Cactus League baseball.
Senate Bill 1264 would forbid spending such dollars to promote teams that seek to relocate within Arizona. Bill sponsors appear to be ruffled at the possibility of spending money to attract a team to an Arizona city from Florida’s Grapefruit League, which only some years later might leave that city for another in Arizona offering better digs and deals.
Certainly such a possibility would sting. It is stinging Tempe to know that soon its Anaheim Angels are likely to be heading west to Goodyear. It stung Chandler when the Milwaukee Brewers left for Maryvale after that west-Phoenix community offered a brand-new stadium and other perks.
But these stings would hardly be like the gaping wound in the Arizona economy that would result from one or more teams deciding that they could get promotional funds — and likely many more amenities — by heading to Florida, or Nevada, or Texas, or other sunny climes itching for the economic infusion and reputational benefits brought by spring baseball.
Better to deal with teams moving around inside the state than with them moving out — and once one or two go, the others, smelling blood and a lack of competition, would be likely to follow.
State promotional money should continue to promote spring baseball in Arizona. Exactly where in Arizona should not be the subject of legislative retribution for what is a matter for individual Arizona cities.