TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The city of Tucson is scheduled to vote whether to approve on a 25-year lease for the University of Arizona baseball team at Hi Corbett Field this week.
The vote will come nearly four years before the old lease, signed in 2011, is set to expire.
Under the terms of the new lease, the University lease payments would be reduced from $262,000 annually to a nominal $10 a year.
In exchange, the University must make $3 million in improvements, take over management and operations of the field, and pay all utilities.
The new lease was negotiated by City Attorney Mike Rankin, who was not available for comment.
When the city approved the agreement in 2011, the future of the baseball stadium, built in 1927, was up in the air.
The Colorado Rockies left Hi Corbett after the city refused to agree to $20 to $30 million in upgrades to the stadium, which has been improved nearly a half dozen times since it was first built.
A University spokesperson said she could not comment on the lease because it must still be approved by both the city and the Arizona Board of Regents.
It has been widely agreed that the stadium has been a benefit to the university in several areas.
First of all, having the stadium off campus allows for beer sales, which has played a part in surging attendance, one of the highest in the league, according to a U of A coach.
Secondly, it's a solid recruiting tool for the baseball program, which has seen its fortunes increase in recent years, including a national championship.
"Everything here is major league," said Matt Morin, a former quarterback now baseball player. "So how much better can it get."
Most college fields must fit a smaller footprint, but since Hi Corbett was built for professional baseball and has been host to a variety of professional teams, it gives players an opportunity to develop skills for the next level.
"That's why they call it a major league training ground," he said. "It gives the hitters here a lot more perspective on how to hit at the next level."
The agreement with the city would also allow the university to add batting cages, upgrade lights, and more comfortable seating without having to rely on the generosity or unpredictability of outside donors.
If the council approves the deal, the city will maintains its revenue stream which includes two percent of all sales merchandise, food and beverage, which includes beer sales.
By some estimates, the Tucson Parks and Recreation Department was spending nearly $900,000 a year to maintain the main baseball field and four other fields, some of which were used by U of A baseball.
The city saves that expenditure even though it gives up its lease receipts.
It will take up to six months to install new meters which will separate Tucson costs from University costs for electricity.
Both sides have been working on the new agreement for a year.
According to one of the people who helped with the contract, "it's basically a wash financially."
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