Tucson Padres: Move to El Paso all but assured

'13 likely last season in Old Pueblo; future of pro game here dim
2012-09-21T00:00:00Z Tucson Padres: Move to El Paso all but assuredDaniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
September 21, 2012 12:00 am  • 

The Tucson Padres' road to El Paso has been all but cleared, while the future of pro baseball in Tucson seems desolate.

On Thursday, El Paso mayor John Cook did not veto the city's plan for a new baseball stadium.

It appears El Paso's new stadium will be built in time for the 2014 season, meaning next season will likely be Tucson's last as a Triple-A city.

"This isn't an obituary for professional baseball in Tucson," Tucson Padres general manager Mike Feder said. "It is what it was a year ago, what it was two years ago - a temporary home."

The Pacific Coast League this week formally approved the sale of the Tucson Padres to El Paso's MountainStar Sports Group. However, that approval was based on the condition that the new stadium would be built in time for the 2014 season.

The city council passed the motion for a new stadium Tuesday.

"Tuesday was the sense of finality of this process for me," Feder said. "I didn't expect anything to go wrong. Once the politicians voted and the public had a chance to weigh in, it was clear it's something they want for their community."

Tucson is now left with questions about its future in the pro game.

Is this officially the end of Triple-A baseball in Tucson?

A: Feder says no, but nothing is imminent.

The general manager said you never know when a team feels like it has hit a dead end in its current city and might look to relocate.

"I'm not saying it's two years from now, but it could happen at some point," Feder said. "People who have been watching us in this league know what's going on. They know we have a ballpark that's ready for Triple-A baseball right now.

"That's why the Padres came here in the first place."

Could Tucson and Kino Stadium really host a Mexican winter league team for an entire season?

A: It's a possibility, but probably not a good one.

Kino hosts four Mexican winter league teams starting Oct. 4 for the Mexican Baseball Fiesta and two of those teams are already in Tucson for preseason training.

Teams in the league like Tucson's facilities, and logistically it could work.

However, there is one big hang-up.

"It has to economically make sense," Feder said. "Teams pay 100 percent of the players' salary, and they pay well. In the eyes of the Mexican baseball officials, it's their major leagues."

Is this really a done deal now?

A: It sure seems that way.

MountainStar still has to sign the final contract but is expected to soon. Once that happens and construction begins on the new ballpark, things will be a full go.

"The owner wants to sell, and we have to meet our obligation," MountainStar member Woody Hunt told the El Paso Times. "That process will play out in a week."

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