On the eve of the eve of pitchers and catchers reporting, the Rockies news cycle has slowed to another trickle, so while the representatives of the Rockies and Brian Fuentes make the final touches on their cases for an arbitration hearing tomorrow, the political machinations of Tucson's bid to keep the Rockies takes center stage in my baseball world. Okay, so I know very well that as far as baseball's concerned, center stage right now is actually in a different political arena than Tucson's City Council chambers, but I really don't care about those other hearings at this point so I'm sticking with more localized concerns.
$30 Million needed to keep the Rox here?
The cost estimates for what it would take to upgrade Hi Corbett to current MLB standards have seemingly doubled over the last couple of days to $30 million according to this most recent report. From this article you also get the sense that keeping the Rockies is Tucson's only hope of also keeping the Diamondbacks, which makes the civic leaders' urgency more understandable. While the White Sox' bolting for Goodyear will be a severe financial blow, Tucson still holds the two NLCS participants from last season, and both teams are growing in regional popularity with their recent success. Obviously, the D-backs have the much stronger local presence, but Colorado has ranked #6 the last two years among sources of out of state visitors to Arizona. With the Purple Fever created by the Rockies run to the pennant last season, that number is bound to get higher as more fans use their Spring vacations to make the pilgrimage to watch their team. For this reason, I would hope Tucson would also try to address other issues such as improving the business climate around Hi Corbett to attract better food and lodging options for Spring Training pilgrims.
It's not an easy fix, and I don't envy the city of Tucson's task of trying to find the money required to make it happen given how the current economic climate is eating into municipal revenues, but Spring Training seems to be an important part of the tourism economy there and given that city income is already probably flagging, the threat of losing the revenue associated with ST clearly makes this a priority for them.