(Source: AZCentral): Jessica Boehm
Developer proposes $90 million baseball facility, plus a $70 million hotel, office, retail village
The Milwaukee Brewers are exploring moving their spring training home 35 miles southeast to a new facility in Gilbert.
The Major League Baseball team wants Gilbert to build a $90 million baseball facility near Loop 202 at Lindsay and Germann roads, according to emails between consultants and town officials.
“We believe there may be a great deal of community support for the Brewers to relocate in the town of Gilbert,” Bob Quinn, Brewers executive vice president of finance and administration, said in a statement.
The Brewers currently train at Maryvale Baseball Park in west Phoenix. Quinn said the team also is working with Phoenix “on a long-term deal to stay in Maryvale.”
The Brewers have been in Maryvale since 1998 but are currently under a year-to-year contract with Phoenix.
Playing the field
Gilbert officials are mum on the proposition. Spokeswoman Dana Berchman said in a statement that the town is not currently negotiating with the team, “so there isn’t anything to discuss at this time.”
Phoenix spokesman Gregg Bach confirmed that city officials are working with the team.
“It’s been a nearly 20-year relationship that we hope to continue, and we very much value that Maryvale Baseball Park is the Brewers’ home for spring training,” Bach said.
David Sellers of LGE Design Build, the development partner, architect and general contractor of the potential Gilbert project, said Gilbert was the first place his company thought of when they learned the Brewers were considering relocation.
LGE Design Build is responsible for several projects in Gilbert, including Heritage Marketplace, a large restaurant development in downtown Gilbert.
“Gilbert currently does not participate in the nearly $900 million economic impact the Cactus League brings to the Valley, yet it has great freeway access, a community that will embrace the Brewers and offers amenities that most cities do not have such as its thriving downtown,” Sellers said in an email.
Developer’s plans: Ballpark, mixed-use ‘village’
The proposed Gilbert Ballpark would be about seven miles east of the Brewers’ former spring training facility, Compadre Stadium in Chandler. The Brewers trained at the now-demolished park from 1986 to 1997.
LGE Design Build also proposed a 13-acre village next to the facility that would include 220 hotel rooms, 85,000 square feet of office space and 50,000 square feet of retail. It would cost an estimated $70 million to build, although it’s unclear who would front that cost.
According to an LGE Design Build presentation, the restaurants and stores in the village would generate $27 million in taxable sales per year and the office space would give way to 437 “high-end, professional job opportunities.”
The Brewers would also guarantee more than $1 million per year in room stays for the team at the hotel.
The village would have a $90.1 million annual economic impact when completed, according to LGE Design Build.
Financial success of facility debated
The Cactus League often is touted as a money-maker for the Valley economy. But the cities that invest in the baseball parks often end up losing money on the infrastructure.
The potential Gilbert facility could fare the same way.
According to emails among Gilbert staffers, Sellers and financial consultants from April to June, the Brewers are willing to put $20 million toward the construction of the new facility.
The town would be on the hook for the other $70 million, which could be funded through bonds, development fees or a special taxing district.
According to Gilbert’s financial estimates, the total annual expense of the ballpark would be $8 million to $10 million, which would include debt payments, maintenance costs and the team’s cut of spring training revenue. The estimated revenue from the stadium would be just more than $4 million per year.
According to LGE Design Build, Gilbert would see an increase in direct tax revenue of about $880,000. But Sellers stressed that indirect tax revenues spurred by spring training — from spending at restaurants, hotels, etc. — would make the town’s investment worthwhile.
“The Brewers coming into Gilbert is Gilbert tapping into a $850 million … Valley economic impact. Just 10 percent of that would be $85 million being spent in Gilbert that isn’t happening right now,” Sellers said to Banger in an email.
However, an outside firm hired by Gilbert to prepare an economic impact study of the stadium and village was not as optimistic about financial success.
The study by Applied Economics, obtained by The Republic through a public records request, said the spring training facility would bring a significant number of new visitors to Gilbert and generate additional spending, but “the Spring Training season is short and thus the impacts of the stadium are limited unless it is used in the off-season for events that bring in large numbers of non-local visitors.”
“However, the cost of investing in the stadium versus the value of the mixed-use development may not be justifiable,” the study said.
Kathy Tilque, president and CEO of the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce, said the Applied Economics study was fairly limited in its scope and did not take into account the indirect economic benefits of a potential stadium.
The chamber is working with a different economic consulting firm to provide a broader economic analysis. That report should be completed soon and will be turned over to town officials for review, Tilque said.
“It would be a great thing not only for the East Valley but for Gilbert. We just need to make sure the numbers work,” she said.
The chamber’s mission is to make sure the Town Council has all the facts before members make such a big decision, Tilque said. She said it’s obvious that the Brewers are “very interested in Gilbert.”
“They see the demographics and they see the potential and even a huge fan base right here,” Tilque said.
Of the 15 Major League teams that train in Arizona, six are on the east side of the Phoenix area. They are the Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies and San Francisco Giants in Scottsdale; the Chicago Cubs and Oakland Athletics in Mesa; and the Los Angeles Angels in Tempe.