The Tucson Toros announced Monday they will go on hiatus during the 2011 baseball season while the San Diego Padres' Triple-A team plays in Tucson.
The Triple-A Portland Beavers are expected to relocate temporarily to Tucson for at least the 2011 season while a new ballpark is built in Escondido, Calif.
It would be challenging for two teams to succeed financially during a season, so the Toros will go on a hiatus, Toros owner Jay Zucker said. The Toros have played at Hi Corbett Field in the independent Golden Baseball League the last two seasons and averaged 2,660 fans last season, second in the 10-team league.
"It was a decision made based on economics," Zucker said. "Over the past two seasons, the Toros lost more than $1 million in operational monies. That was when we were the only game in town. To have two teams going for the same market would cause us further financial losses and much confusion for the community, so we have decided to respectfully modify our agenda and focus on baseball-related events and community events."
Zucker said he will not be involved in operating the Beavers. He was interested in operating the team, and in the last year, he had been communicating with Beavers owner Merritt Paulson, who is selling the team to an ownership group headed by Padres owner Jeff Moorad.
Zucker said Moorad informed him that he received a better deal for the team to play at Tucson Electric Park.
"It's extremely (disappointing)," Zucker said. "I believed we could have provided the Beavers a good home under the name of the Toros, and the concept would have been mutually beneficial for their organization, the community and the Toros organization. However, for their reasons, they've elected to play at TEP. With that, we lost the opportunity of hosting their team."
Mike Feder, executive director of the Pima County Sports and Tourism Authority, said he would be interested in operating the team in Tucson.
The Beavers likely will play at TEP, but an agreement has not been finalized with Pima County to use TEP, PCSTA chairman Tom Tracy said.
Although the Toros will not play games in the GBL in 2011, the organization plans to host minor-league spring training, a fitness festival, a fantasy baseball camp and Thirsty Thursdays with local musicians. The Toros have received commitments from the GBL's Calgary and Edmonton teams for spring training, which begins in May and will involve fireworks and Thirsty Thursday events. In addition, the Toros plan to invite independent minor-league teams to send top players to an all-star game the Toros would host, Zucker said.
"We had hoped that the Toros would operate the Beavers for the 2011 season prior to their return to our league in 2012, but since that is not the case, we will support their efforts for spring training and other fun family activities at Hi Corbett this coming season," GBL commissioner Kevin Outcalt said. "They are a valued member of our league, and we look forward to having them return as soon as possible."
The Toros intend to return from hiatus after the Beavers leave, and Zucker said he expects the hiatus to be a year. Moorad intends to relocate the team in Escondido. The city of Escondido must approve, by Nov. 30, construction of a $45million to $50million ballpark to be completed in 2012.
"After the Escondido vote occurs, we will have a better understanding of the time frame," Zucker said.