Cities face Cactus League financial issues

Camelback Ranch-Glendale

Nine Phoenix-area cities will be facing tough choices, as Cactus League financial issues stemming from decreased Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority assistance is affecting ballpark and spring-training-complex financing.

The basic issue: the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority is receiving less in the way of a 1 percent hotel tax and 3.25 percent rental-car tax; initial projections were on the optimistic side, and a recession put on more hurt. Nine municipalities were counting on ASTA funds when committing to new spring-training complexes, and ASTA officials are now deferring funding to 2020 and beyond — and some warn that there may be no money available at all, given a recent court decision knocking down ASTA’s tax collection as being unconstitutional. From the Arizona Republic:

Glendale and Goodyear may not receive any of the $100 million-plus in repayments the cities were promised for Cactus League baseball complexes, because tax revenue used to pay them continues to fall below original projections.

Under the best scenario, the financially squeezed Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority will repay the two West Valley cities sometime between 2021 and 2031, well beyond the original schedule.

But the money may never come for the cities before the sports authority and its tourist taxes are phased out in 2031, forcing the host cities to pay the full stadium tab.

We are talking some big numbers here: Glendale is counting on $60 million, while Goodyear is expecting $57.5 million. ASTA is actually under no legal obligation to provide the funds, so if ASTA shuts down, the cities will be left holding the bag.

Some municipalities will fare better than others: Phoenix is expecting just over a million dollars for Maryvale Baseball Park renovations, an amount that can be addressed relatively well.

What this means for the future: because of Cactus League financial issues you won’t see a new spring-training complex built in the Cactus League in coming years, unless it’s privately financed by a business or Indian tribe a la Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Indeed, the new-complex action will be in Florida, which took a more conservative approach to spring-training funding and is now in a position to fund new complexes and upgrades.

About Kevin Reichard

Kevin Reichard is editor and publisher of Spring Training Online.

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