White Sox propose youth academy to replace spring training

In an effort to break their lease for Tucson Electric Park and move spring training operations to a new ballpark in Glendale, the Chicago White Sox have proposed instituting a year-round youth baseball tournament facility and youth academy at the expense of the White Sox and run by Major League Baseball. The White Sox would pay to upgrade existing playing fields and adding four more to the Tucson Electric Park complex. The youth academy would be centered on local youth and their development, focusing on lower-income and minority kids, given them training and guidance at no cost. The expanded facility would then be poised to snare more baseball tournaments year-round.

The youth-baseball field is already a crowded one — though a lucrative one, admittedly — and MLB is developing expertise in the area by launching other youth academies across the nation. The White Sox and a Scottsdale consulting firm say the economic impact of this proposal would be $46 million — far more than the $30 million annually brought to the area by spring training. The study assume four dozen youth tournaments would each bring in about $1 million in spending. Then there’s the issue of possibly expanding the scope of the proposal to include college squads.

But the bigger issue is the impact on the quality of life in Tucson, because if the White Sox leave you can bet the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies will be leaving as well. Both teams have clauses in their contracts allowing them to bail on Tucson should there be fewer than three teams training in the area, and both have explored moving spring-training operations to Phoenix. And there are many residents who would rather keep spring training, even at an economic loss. So the decision on whether to let the White Sox go is an important one indeed. More from the Arizona Star. The Tucson Citizen editorialists are skeptical.