Padres could still call Tucson home next year

2013-09-04T00:00:00Z 2013-09-04T23:10:56Z Padres could still call Tucson home next yearBy Joe Ferguson Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

It might be too early to start unstitching the logos on the Tucson Padres’ uniforms. The team could be headed for extra innings in the Old Pueblo.

The owners of the minor league baseball team, El Paso-based MountainStar Sports Group, have extended their contract with Pima County to use the Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium for another season.

The $70,000 contract, approved by the Pima County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, gives the yet-to-be-renamed Triple A team the option to play in Tucson for another season if their new stadium in El Paso isn’t ready for spring training.

The team was supposed to have played its “final” game in Tucson last Thursday.

The MountainStar Sports Group was already on the hook for $35,000 with the Pima County Sports & Tourism Authority, the built-in cost for not renewing last year’s contract.

Alan Ledford, the president of the MountainStar Sports Group, said the decision to renew the contract is more of a backup plan for the team, an insurance policy in case the downtown El Paso stadium isn’t finished by April.

He wouldn’t rule out the possibility the team could play in Tucson next year, at least for a few games, but said such a decision is several months away.

Martin Bartlett with the city of El Paso said the downtown ballpark there remains on schedule to be completed by April 2014.

However, Bartlett conceded, there are “many variables” that could push back the opening of the new ballpark.

The El Paso Times reported last month that higher-than-expected interest rates for the bonds associated with stadium increased the long-term debt by $17 million, with the final price tag now estimated to be about $143 million.

Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said the request to renew the contract for another year came from the ball club and surprised county staffers who thought the team was done with Tucson.

The county had no concrete plans to allow another sports team to regularly use Kino Stadium next year between April and August, he said, at the time the team opted to renew the contract.

Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at jferguson@azstarnet.com or 573-4346. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFerguson.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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