Friday, January 29, 2010

Arizona 15, Florida 15

Call the Dodgers avant-garde, or at worst, symptomatic of the trend of major league baseball teams moving spring training to Arizona. As the NYTimes reported today, the Cubs' recent failed courtship by Florida exemplifies Arizona's advantaged financial position:

The yearlong tug of war over the Cubs underscored how difficult it has been for Florida to keep and recruit teams. Since 1998, six major league clubs have moved to Arizona, enticed by sweetheart stadium deals, drier weather and closer proximity to other teams. The biggest departure came last year, when the Los Angeles Dodgers left Vero Beach after more than a half-century. There are now 15 clubs in each state, which creates scheduling challenges because of the odd number of teams.

No teams have moved east since the Cleveland Indians in 1993. They moved back to Arizona in 2009. Cities in Arizona have aggressively courted teams using, among other things, a permanent tax on car rentals to finance stadiums.

By contrast, cities in Florida have tapped a total of $150 million in state subsidies to refurbish their stadiums. But legislators have been reluctant to replenish that fund and cash-strapped cities have had trouble persuading voters that their tax dollars should be spent on privately owned teams. Some voters have also been skeptical of the economic benefits promised by supporters of publicly funded stadium projects.

''In today's economy, it would be tough'' for Florida to attract a team from Arizona, said Philip Porter, professor of economics at the University of South Florida.

He added, ''Florida is not going to win if Arizona is willing to spend $84 million on a spring training stadium.''

I never made it out to Vero Beach, and I regret that. However, I'm looking forward to jetting over to Arizona to see the Dodgers in Spring training, hopefully this year. It's sad to lose the tradition of Vero Beach, but the relative convenience of Camelback Ranch is hard to beat.


Fred's Brim said...

My dad and I made it to Vero for the last few games (it was kind of wack because half the team was in Asia at the time) and we had lucked into it in AZ the year before. I realized that playing in Florida has to be a giant pain in the ass because of the travel.

With nearly all of the teams around Phoenix, it's easy to get to a road game in AZ (especially with the teams sharing campuses). In Florida, there are basically 2 leagues, on the east and west coasts, with orlando shared in the middle. I dont think the Dodgers would venture much (if at all) to Ft Myers or Tampa or the other west coast parks. I saw them play in Orlando and that's a 2 hour drive. Goodyear to Tuscon is about the same, and that's about the worst of it

Kyle Baker said...

Yeah, the AZ move made a ton of sense. Not historically or emotionally, but a lot of logical and fiscal sense. We'll grow to like it.