Reds likely to remain in Florida for training
By Josh Brodesky
arizona daily star
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 11.14.2007
Considering it's baseball, anything can happen. But it's unlikely the Cincinnati Reds will be the salvation to Tucson's spring training troubles.
Although a bond to upgrade the Reds' training facility in Florida was rejected by voters last week, baseball insiders say the team would like to stay in the Sunshine State.
Still, the president of the Arizona Diamondbacks will be meeting with Reds ownership tonight to pitch spring training in the Old Pueblo.
"I, obviously, have positive feelings about Tucson and think our facility has worked well," Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall said. "Obviously, the more the merrier when it comes to spring training in Tucson and Southern Arizona."
This won't be the first time Hall has made a pitch to the Reds about replacing the Chicago White Sox, who are looking to move to Glendale for the 2009 season. In the past, Reds ownership has said the team planned to stay in Sarasota, Fla., but that was before the bond failed.
"I think a lot of that had to do with the fact they were confident they were going to get their approval," Hall said. "They have said they are going to consider Arizona. When I hear 'consider Arizona,' I hope it means 'consider Tucson.' "
Reds representatives declined to comment.
Tucson is the spring training home to the Diamondbacks, White Sox and Colorado Rockies. All three teams have signed contracts to hold spring training here through 2012, but that is contingent on there being at least three major-league teams. With the White Sox looking to leave and no set replacement team, the future of spring training in Tucson is tenuous.
While there has been talk about the possibility of the Reds moving to Arizona, the team has not had any official discussions with Pima County, the Cactus League or the Arizona Baseball and Softball Commission.
Pima County is not taking an active stance in luring the Reds, but if the team is interested in moving spring training to Tucson, county officials will gladly meet.
"At this point, it's best to leave it with the Diamondbacks and the White Sox, to leave it mostly in their hands," Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said. "We probably know the least of anybody."
But the perception among baseball insiders is the Reds prefer to stay in Florida.
"I don't think there is any kind of situation that says the Reds are definitely moving to Arizona," said Robert Brinton, Cactus League vice president. "My guess is it would be far easier for them to get something worked out for them in Florida."
And while it would make sense to have the Reds replace the White Sox at Tucson Electric Park, Tucson would almost certainly be competing against Goodyear and possibly Casa Grande.
The Phoenix suburb of Goodyear is building a $74.5 million stadium for the Cleveland Indians, and Goodyear's Mayor Jim Cavanaugh has said the city would like a second spring-training team — it has already had talks with the Rockies.
Jeff Schatzki, director of the governor's Baseball and Softball Commission, said he sees merits to both Tucson and Goodyear as spring-training sites, and that it's not his place to favor one community over another.
While there are only three teams in the Tucson area and travel to Phoenix is an issue, "the facility is already there," he said.
Meanwhile, Goodyear would be offering a new stadium, an American League team from the same state and the proximity of what will be 12 teams in the greater Phoenix area.
Schatzki said he doesn't believe the Phoenix area is reaching a saturation point for spring-training teams.
"The Phoenix area is growing so rapidly that when you look at it from just a local fan base, I think we can accommodate that kind of growth," he said.
Saturation is a concern for the Cactus League, however. Brinton, the league's vice president, said much of the movement of teams to Phoenix is dictated by incentives for ownership and accessibility for fans, as there are more direct flights to Phoenix.
"To me, spring training has evolved into sponsor conditioning and fan conditioning every bit as much, if not more, than player conditioning," he said.
Such an evolution, Brinton said, puts spring training in Tucson at risk because it can't offer the same deals as Goodyear and Glendale.
"I think it would be a shame, an absolute shame, for the Cactus League to lose Tucson," Brinton said. "But here again, spring training once was really about conditioning the players. Now it's an opportunity to make revenue."