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Arizona authority running out of funds for Cactus League facilities

The Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority, already facing some serious financial issues, is cutting back its funding for Cactus League spring-training camps and may not be able to help future projects — including a new Chicago Cubs facility.

The issue: a drastic decline in tourism spending is putting far less into ASTA coffers than anticipated. Funding for Phoenix-area spring-training facilities is tacked onto car-rental taxes; fewer tourists means fewer dollars from car rentals. And no one is expecting things to turn around quickly: even if the economy goes up tourism is expected to be impacted by boycotts of the state thanks to its recent actions on immigration enforcement.

ASTA has no choice but to pass on shortfalls to cities: Glendale will receive $79 million from ASTA for Camelback Ranch – Glendale instead of the anticipated $142 million, and the money won’t appear until 2021. Goodyear is facing a similar cutback for new spring-training facilities for the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds.

The cities will need to pick up the slack. Looking forward, the ASTA shortfalls will surely impact two new facilities — Maryvale Baseball Park and Peoria Stadium — and a potential new one in Mesa for the Cubs.

ASTA had already committed to spending $10 million on upgrades to Maryvale Baseball Park should the Brewers stay (their lease expired after 2012), but that money in doubt. Also scheduled: $15 million for improvements to Peoria Stadium in 2014. And right now there’s no money for the Cubs in the budget at all.

The feeling in Arizona: the current economic setup for funding spring-training facilities is not sustainable. But Major League Baseball cried bloody murder when a Cactus League-wide tax was proposed, and that idea is sure to come up again as ASTA faces further shortfalls.

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