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The Paper - Escondido San Marcos North County
 Commentary November 25th, 2010     
The Editor

Pfeiler’s Pfolly?

We have been following the ongoing discussions, both public and private, about the proposed new ballpark for Escondido with more than a modicum of interest.

From the outset, we have been dead set against it and have said so, several times.

We love Lori Holt Pfeiler. She has been a great member of the Escondido City Council and an excellent Mayor. She will be remembered as a great mediator, a consensus former, a moderate voice in sometimes heated discussions.

We would hope that is the legacy for which Lori is remembered. We would hope further that she is not remembered as the moving force for what is likely to become known, if it goes forward, as Pfeiler’s Pfolly . . . and that would be the ballpark.

The ballpark simply makes no sense at all. We’re all but broke as a city.

Now that the Escondido election is over, we have a new makeup on the council. Mayor Pfeiler and Councilmember Dick Daniels were the driving forces behind the ballpark idea. Now that they are out of office, will the viewpoint change?

I think so,” said Councilmember Olga Diaz. “As much as I love Dick Daniels and Lori I think they were so enamored of the project that I think they didn’t take a really hard look at it. Mr. Moorad is going to have to work hard to earn the support of the new council.

I still have an open mind on the issue,” said Mayor-elect Sam Abed. “But we have to have a cap on our costs. We have to have a firm, binding contract that will ensure the ballclub would stay in Escondido for 35 of 40 years.” How would the terms of such a contract be enforced, he was asked: “Well, we’d have to enforce it with severe penalties if they broke the contract. We’d have to emake it not easy to walk away.

Olga Diaz: “ The Reno example is of more concern to me. Their level of economic activity puts ours to shame . . . all the tourism, the surrounding businesses, commerce and industry . . It’s a lovely facility . . . yet they can’t make it? That troubles me. (The Reno ballpark is estimated to be worth about half of what the development costs were and the city is subsidizing the team to the tune of $1 million per year).

“The theory is we would draw from all of N. County, as well as San Diego County in general . . .would be source for fan base. Unlike Reno, our risk is using all the redevelpment money and not generating enough revenue to make sure we can cover our expenses. According to our City Manager, we would never generate enough revenue to recover our investment; he says the the purpose of the ball park is to stimulate development. There could be a social benefit, but I don’t see a financial benefit. We are not setting up a business or taxing district . . . we don’t control the possibilites for development. Moorad has been quietly buying up land in the proposed areas for the ballpark. It is he that owns land for ancillary develpment . . . he’ll help himself, not the city. It is not my job to develop a sports mecca, but to protect taxpayer dollars.

Councilman-Elect, Ed Gallo: We considered a similar idea five years ago; that was when times were good and we have money. Now we’re all but broke and it’s a good idea? How does that work? If it was a bad idea then, it’s still a bad idea; even worse, given our financial condition.

Look, Tucson moved to Reno, and now the Tuscon stadium has been empty for two years. I don’t see anything to keep Moorad from walking away. This could be a very successful deal for the owners . . . but not, in my judgment, for the city of Escondido. Moorad wans ust to pay for everything. I don’t like it. I don’t see development coming because of the ballpark. Riverside didn’t have it, Elsinore didn’t have it . . . we won’t have it. Studies show consistently that there is no appreciable commerical industrial development as a result of having a ballpark in a city the size of Escondido..

Abed: I believe there as some success stories about ballparks and cities working together; we have to look carefully. We have an M1 and an M2 zone that will take a long time to develop. . . we can’t wait a long time. We want to increase jobs.

I could support the idea if we had reasonable development. I have an open mind on the issue but I will not support a $50 million payout with no financianl benefit to the city.

Marie Waldron: It is difficult to compare Escondido and the ballparks in other cities. I think everyone needs to see the final deal points and then make a judgement. That is what I am doing. The Beavers apparently announced they were moving and the article said it was difficult to judge whether their low attendance was due to fans being upset. However, the estimate of population for the Escondido park is about 700,000. That is because it is a AAA team of the local pro-team, the San Diego Padres, and it is a regional draw, not just Escondido. Reno is a completely different issue from Escondido. That redevelopment agency was set up to fund the ballpark and the scheme is completely different from ours. Escondido has a redevelopment area that was created some decades ago and is financially sound with or without the ballpark.
You really need to speak with some business owners that might have an interest in expanding or redeveloping, such as the swap meet owner, the Westfield mall, and many commercial brokers. In addition, the Marriott Hotel project is most certainly going to benefit in its financing capabilities if there was a ballpark project planned.

All that said, we must see the final plan, to make a judgement. I have urged the city staff to wrap it quickly, so that the details can be made public.

No firm commitments one way or the other yet. That will likely happen on December 15th when the votes will be cast as to whether to proceed or not.

For the sake of the legacy of a very nice lady, I’m hoping it will be a No vote loud and clear.

I would hate to see Pfeiler’s Pfolly become a reality; for her sake as well as the city of Escondido.

 

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