Padres Land A New Home For Triple-A Club

SAN DIEGO—The negotiations took about six months.

The city council meeting for final approval was a four-hour marathon, with nearly 50 speakers.

Finally, after all the time, the haggling, the back-and-fourth negotiations, the Escondido, Calif., city council voted 4-1 to spend $50 million in redevelopment money to build a ballpark just north of the city's downtown.

The park will be the home of the Padres' Triple-A affiliate in the Pacific Coast League. Escondido is a city of about 150,000, about 45 minutes north of downtown San Diego and Petco Park, and about 45 minutes south of the Lake Elsinore Storm, the Padres' affiliate in the high Class A California League.

Padres CEO Jeff Moorad heads a group of investors that purchased the PCL's Portland Beavers and will move the franchise to Escondido when the stadium is finished, probably in time for the 2013 season.

In the interim, the team will go to Tucson, Ariz., where it will be called the Tucson Padres and will play in Kino Stadium, formerly known as Tucson Electric Park.

Moorad and his group said Escondido was the ideal spot for the club. The 15-acre ballpark site sits a block away from the city's transit center, which connects Escondido—a city about 25 miles east of the Pacific Ocean—to the coast. The site is also blocks from two major freeways.

"We've been offered a diamond, and I'm willing to get engaged," Escondido councilman Mike Morasco said.

Not So Fast

The project almost fell apart at the last minute, however, when Escondido mayor Sam Abed and some council members tried to negotiate a better deal. Moorad, who felt he had already made significant concessions to the original agreement, told the council, "I don't know that the deal can withstand a complete reopening."

Ultimately, the parties agreed that there was wiggle room in the council's demands. The council took its vote, and the wheels were put in motion to bring professional baseball to San Diego's North County.

The first step after the council vote was for the Moorad group to purchase the Portland franchise from Merrit Paulson for somewhere between $16 million-$20 million.

"Our ownership group is happy to have finalized our purchase of the Padres' Triple-A affiliate, so we can move forward with planning for 2011 and beyond," Moorad said.

The Moorad group had put off the purchase of the franchise until it was sure of the franchise's final destination. Lake Elsinore was considered as an interim site, but baseball officials didn't want California League and Pacific Coast League franchises to share a stadium for two seasons, so Tucson became a compromise site.

Before the deal in Escondido was completed, the Moorad group had to agree to extend its lease with the ballpark from 20 to 30 years, the length of the bonds the city will use to finance the project.

The Moorad group will pay about $200,000 a year in rent, but will keep the revenue from ticket sales, concessions and naming rights. Parking revenue will be split. The Moorad group will pay about $150,000 a year to cover repairs to the ballpark.

The city of Escondido benefits from what council members hope will become a ballpark district similar to the trendy Gaslamp Quarter near Petco Park.

The ballpark site sits in a business area, and opposing factions argued it would be better suited for a business park.

The Moorad group is interested in purchasing several parcels near the ballpark site in anticipation of the ballpark district.