Professional baseball could return to Tucson

2014-01-15T00:00:00Z 2014-01-15T09:38:03Z Professional baseball could return to TucsonBy Joe Ferguson Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

A minor league out of Texas is swinging for the fences in a bid to bring baseball back to Tucson this year.

The investor group behind an independent baseball league based in Texas has submitted a formal proposal to take over Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium, starting as early as next month.

John Bryant, chief executive officer of Reunion Sports LLC, said in a letter to County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry that a team with the United League Baseball could play as many as 72 games this year if a deal could be worked out.

“We wish to permanently locate an independent, minor-league professional baseball team in Tucson beginning in the 2014 season which would make its home at Kino Sports Complex,” wrote Bryant, shortly after touring the facility with county officials earlier this month.

The proposal offers the county-run stadium district roughly $72,000 for year-round occupancy of the team offices and seasonal use of the stadium.

Reunion Sports Group also wants to take over concessions at the stadium, offering the county 20 percent of the gross concession revenues.

The two-page letter also hints at the possibility of major-league baseball returning to Tucson, offering to pay the stadium district an additional $10,000 for every major-league exhibition game held at Kino Stadium.

It even contains a scaled-back proposal to essentially share the stadium with El Paso Chihuahuas, as the Triple A baseball team still has an existing lease with the county.

The team, formerly known as the Tucson Padres, has the option to play in Tucson for another season if its new stadium built in downtown El Paso isn’t ready for spring training.

The league offers to work around the “home” schedule of the El Paso team, playing as few as 48 games at Kino Stadium.

Bryant, who toured the stadium on Jan. 3, said the stadium is one of the nicest in the country his teams have access to.

He said the teams in the United League Baseball play in similarly sized markets but have access to much smaller stadiums.

Huckelberry said the county staff has reviewed the proposal and is working on a response.

Some possible sticking points could include the concessionaire license and handing over control of the stadium to a single group for the entire year.

The county has found some recent success in marketing the baseball stadium to other groups, mostly notably semi-professional soccer teams.

If the two sides can reach an agreement in principle, Huckelberry said a decision could go before the Pima County Board of Supervisors in a matter of weeks.

Greg Foster, a managing partner of FC Tucson, believes there is plenty of room inside the stadium district for both his semi-professional soccer club and the baseball team.

While not privy to the offer made by Reunion Sports, Foster said he welcomes the idea of the stadium finding a year-round new tenant.

He praised county stadium district officials for their ability to quickly convert the field at Kino Stadium to accommodate the schedules of both soccer and baseball teams.

His only concern, Foster said, was that he hopes the stadium will continue to be available for smaller groups, including local amateur sport teams.

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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