With Ballpark Fading, Moorad May Sell PCL Franchise

Jeff Moorad appears likely to sell his newly acquired Pacific Coast League franchise if California's budget problems crush a new ballpark project in suburban San Diego.

Local leaders in Escondido, a city of roughly 140,000 people 31 miles north of Petco Park, approved a $50 million project to build a new ballpark for Moorad's Triple-A team, which played last year in Portland but got pushed out of that city when its ballpark was converted to a soccer stadium.

But new California Gov. Jerry Brown, with his state government facing a massive budget deficit, is considering abolishing municipal redevelopment agencies, a bureaucratic way of saying the state money for the ballpark project would go away. That would kill the project.

Moorad, who is also CEO of the Padres, purchased the franchise from Merritt Paulson last October (the sale was completed early this year) with the intention of moving it to Escondido. The team is in Tucson now–and will be called the Tucson Padres–but the plan was to move it to Escondido for the 2013 season, when the ballpark was completed.

If the ballpark project falls through, however, Moorad may put the team back on the market.

Steve Peace, a consultant to Moorad's investment group, said that the group will consider three options if the ballpark project falls through: sell to one of the other groups Paulson had talked to, sell the team to a local Tucson group, or find another suburban San Diego community where it can build a new ballpark.

Because new ballpark construction projects in California would likely depend on redevelopment money from the state—a proposed new downtown stadium for the NFL's San Diego Chargers will also be scrapped if Brown's proposal is approved by the state legislature—Moorad is unlikely to find another site in California to build a ballpark. That would leave him with the two options of selling the team.

Peace said it would be premature to to assume the franchise will be sold, though he did confirm those are the options Moorad is considering if the Escondido project falls through.