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The A's and the city of Mesa, Ariz., have reached a 20-year deal for the team to move its Spring Training home to the city beginning in February '15. The deal includes two five-year options for the A's to further extend the contract to as much as 30 years. The team will conduct workouts at Fitch Park and play preseason games at Hohokam Stadium. The two facilities are slated for a combined $20M in renovations next year after the Cubs vacate the ballpark. The A's previously held Spring Training in Mesa from '69-78 (A's). In S.F., John Shea notes the new deal means the A's will be "ending a 33-year run in Phoenix." Hohokam "is not as centrally located in the Valley of the Sun as Phoenix Municipal Stadium, but it'll be a far better complex, especially after" its renovations. Phoenix Municipal in '15 will be "taken over" by Arizona State Univ.'s baseball program (S.F. CHRONICLE, 3/6). In Arizona, Daniel Quigley notes the agreement "requires the city to kick in" the first $15M in improvements to the A’s new home. The A’s and the city of Mesa will "equally split" the next $5M in renovations, "leaving the city responsible" for a limit of $17.5M. Any renovation costs exceeding $20M "would be paid by the A’s" (EAST VALLEY TRIBUNE, 3/6).
HOW BAD DO YOU WANT IT? ESPN.com's Buster Olney wrote of A's Owner Lew Wolff and the ongoing attempt to build a new ballpark in San Jose, "To say that Wolff has tried to play nice is being polite." Wolff has been "strung along by Major League Baseball, which formed a committee to study this issue so long ago that you might need carbon dating in examining some of the documents it has generated." But "even if the Athletics got the OK to move today, it would be years before they would play their first game in San Jose." The A's "need a game-changer, to push things along." Wolff "probably needs to stick his elbows out and start pushing" (ESPN.com, 3/5). CSNBAYAREA.com's Ray Ratto wrote of the A's potential move to San Jose, "If this is ever decided, it will be decided in only one way, the one way the A’s seem so reluctant to try. To work the other 28 owners the way politicians actually do work." Ratto: "In hallways. On the phone. At meetings. By showing them the money they can all collect if the A’s were allowed to move. You know, by actually WORKING THE DAMNED ROOM." But the A's have "hitched their wagon to the laughable strategy" of letting MLB Commissioner Bud Selig do the "heavy lifting, which he doesn’t want to do while he is still in the corner office." The A’s "aren’t showing the urgency to get anything done at all" (CSNBAYAREA.com, 3/4).
Eight of the nine cities that hosted Cactus League teams last year “lost money on their stadiums and practice facilities, with combined deficits of more than" $10M annually, according to a front-page piece by Seligman & Corbett of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. The Cactus League, with an “average of 221 games the past five years, generates tens of millions of dollars at the ballparks throughout the season, but the teams take the lion’s share of game revenue.” The cities also “pay the majority of the costs to maintain the ballparks, watering and mowing the grass and meticulously grooming the fields.” Mesa "has lost an average" of $1.47M annually over the past five years hosting the Cubs at Hohokam Stadium and Fitch Park. Phoenix "lost an average" of $1.7M over five years hosting the A's at Phoenix Municipal Stadium and an additional $1.8M "annually at Maryvale Baseball Park” for the Brewers. Peoria, Ariz., "lost an average" of $1.63M annually over the past five years hosting the Padres and the Mariners. Cactus League officials argue that the cities’ investment in baseball for "spring and year-round training" generates more than $600M annually for the state’s economy. City officials added that the stadiums are “used for much more than spring training.” Most ballparks are “rented out to third-party users year-round to help offset the costs to run the multimillion-dollar facilities and serve as sites for community engagement and activities.” The ballparks are also used for "holiday gatherings and other special events.” Goodyear’s Fourth of July fireworks show “draws about 15,000 people,” while Salt River Fields hosts “a Halloween hot-air-balloon festival.” Peoria Sports Facilities Manager Chris Calcaterra said, “Revenue maker? Probably not. But community enhancer? Absolutely. Cliche as it may sound, we build memories” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 3/6).
Players in this week's WGC-Cadillac Championship "have been gushing about the glorious condition of the TPC Blue Monster at Trump Doral," but course owner Donald Trump is going to "blow it up" when he begins renovations on the course Monday, according to Steve Waters of the South Florida SUN-SENTINEL. Trump before last year's tournament said that "major changes would take place after this year's tournament." But "even Trump, who is an avid golfer, didn't realize just how many changes were in store when he first sat down with course designer Gil Hanse." The signature 18th hole "will be left alone, other than getting new grass." Trump said that the changes will "create an amphitheatre at 9 and 18." He also plans "lots of mounding to give spectators a better view of the players." Golfer Justin Rose said, "We play a lot of resorts. Sometimes after 20, 30 years, they need a bit of an update and I think this golf course will benefit from it" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 3/6). GOLFWEEK's Bradley Klein notes Hanse's new design "will add length, make the par 5s more challenging, widen the practice range, bring water more into play, introduce more risk-reward elements, improve drainage and expand greens to recapture long-lost hole locations." Hanse credits Trump with "coming up with the idea of creating a common viewing area for spectators to take in the action on the panorama provided by the 18th green, ninth green and 10th tee." But when it "came to a proposed island green, Hanse balked" (GOLFWEEK, 3/1 issue). Trump Organization Exec VP/Development & Acquisitions Ivanka Trump said the renovations "will be fully comprehensive." She said the PGA Tour is "very excited about our renovations for Doral, to take an already great resort and just bring it to the next level" ("Morning Drive," Golf Channel, 3/5).
TIME FOR AN UPGRADE: Golf Channel's Todd Lewis said Doral is a "great course in a sense, but it really is very old and tired and probably not up to snuff in terms of the way the players are hitting the balls now.” Donald Trump said the course is going to change from “not fan-friendly to extremely fan-friendly." Lewis said the planned renovations of course will “alter every hole on this golf course” (“Golf Central,” Golf Channel, 3/5). Golf Channel’s Matt Ginella said it "should be exciting to see what the end result is here” following the $200M renovations. Ginella: “Hopefully this is more Hanse-heavy in the renovation and less Donald Trump. I don’t want any of the waterfalls and stuff like that.” Golf Channel’s Kelly Tilghman said, “It needs a makeover simply because I think golf courses need more than one or two memorable holes” ("Morning Drive," Golf Channel, 3/6).
After Univ. of Minnesota football fans “enjoyed their first season of legal beer at TCF Bank Stadium, some legislators wonder whether it’s time to open the taps" for the school's hockey and basketball fans, according to Jennifer Brooks of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. State Rep. Dan Schoen “figures that if sales at one venue are good, expanding beer sales beyond the suites and premium seats at Mariucci and Williams arenas could be even better.” Schoen: “Beer for all worked pretty well at the Bank. I think beer for all could work pretty well at the rest of the stadiums, too.” UM Assistant Dir of Government Relations Todd Iverson said that the school “would like to wait to study how alcohol affects the games at the stadium before expanding to other venues.” Iverson: “This isn’t saying we’re opposed to the bill, but we have concerns about it being implemented this year.” Iverson said that the hockey and basketball arenas "present challenges.” He added that factors which "might make the university more reluctant to bring alcohol into the postgame mix" are a greater number of games for hockey and basketball, including many played at night. Iverson said that beer sales “have been brisk at the stadium … with an estimated $990,000 in sales in the first season alone.” However, he said that “only about $16,000 in profits ended up in the university’s pocket” (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 3/6).
In L.A., Vincent Bonsignore writes while a report yesterday had AEG's Farmers Field project as "dead" to the NFL, the "reality is nothing much has changed since last March when league sources expressed similar concerns about AEG's deal structure." AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke "fully understood AEG might have to make some adjustments to facilitate a deal and that his company had the flexibility to accommodate those tweaks." Bonsignore: "What has changed since then? Absolutely nothing." Until AEG has a new owner in place, "everything is in a holding pattern." A source said that "talk is ongoing between AEG and league officials, and as recently as last month a prominent owner was briefed about Farmers Field by the AEG team" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 3/6). CBS Sports Network’s Doug Gottlieb said of why a stadium needs to be built in L.A., “If you build it, you get a Super Bowl. If you build it, and you have any sort of retractable roof, you can also get a Final Four. You can get any sort of event” (“Lead Off,” CBSSN, 3/5).
LEAVING THE NEST: In Phoenix, Paul Giblin reports the NFL and the city of Glendale are "close to finalizing a 15-year deal that would uproot the Cardinals' training camp" from Flagstaff. The city would "spend $325,900 annually on the deal but expect to get more than $500,000 in tax revenue each year." The Cardinals would "invest about" $4M as part of the deal. Glendale Assistant Economic Development Dir Dave McAlindin said that the decision "now largely rests with the Cardinals, who also are considering a three-year bid" from Northern Arizona Univ., where the team has held training camp since '88 (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 3/6).
A DAY AT THE RACES: Suffolk Downs officials said that they will "dramatically shrink the 'sea of asphalt'" around the East Boston horse racing facility and "increase plantings and gardens, as a key selling point of its bid for casino development rights." In Boston, Mark Arsenault reports the "revamped development plans are the first major update to the Suffolk Downs casino design since the track initially rolled out plans" for a $1B "urban oasis" in June (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/6).
BUILDING THE ISLAND: On Long Island, Nicole Fuller reports the Islip Town Board yesterday "voted unanimously" to enter into a $3.5M sales contract with "a developer who wants to build" a $45M sports complex in Central Islip, which would eventually be home to the MLL N.Y. Lizards. The Ultimate Game Indoor/Outdoor Sports complex "would include outdoor turf fields, a 200,000-square-foot indoor facility and a 6,000-seat stadium." City officials "hope the site ... would become an epicenter of athletics on Long Island" (NEWSDAY, 3/6).