Pima County takes cash for White Sox to leave

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The Chicago White Sox have spent their last Spring in Tucson.

The 2005 World Series Champions will move their spring training to Glendale, Arizona, in 2009. To get out of its contract three years early, the team agreed to pay Pima County $5 million dollars along with other consideration.

The Pima County Board of Supervisors voted to accept the cash unanimously at its meeting Tuesday.

"It's a very sad day for baseball in Tucson," said Supervisors Chair Richard Elias.

Under the proposal, $3 million of the funds from the White Sox will be used to upgrade current facilities utilized by the White Sox at Tucson Electric Park complex. The facilities will be used by youth baseball teams in Tucson.

In the vote, the county rejected an offer by the White Sox to support a Youth Baseball program in Tucson which would attract players from around the nation. The Board said they would prefer the facilities be available to local youth.

Supervisor Ann Day called the move an "opportunity" to help local youth. "We can take this money and build a real 'field of dreams' for people in this area," Day said.

In a news release, the executive vice president of the White Sox, Howard Pizer, said, "We are very pleased Pima County's Board of Supervisors approved this agreement. Our goal all along in these negotiations has been to provide the best solution for both the White Sox and Pima County, and we held many conversations and discussions leading to today's action by the Board of Supervisors."

With the White Sox out of Tucson, there is strong speculation the two remaining teams which use Tucson for their spring training may leave as well. The Colorado Rockies have said publicly they are concerned that the only other team remaining in Tucson is the Arizona Diamondbacks -- a team in their division. Team management had indicated they are not comfortable spending a considerable amount of time training with a direct competitor during the regular season. Also, the Rockies reportedly have a clause in their agreement allowing an "out" if less than two teams conduct their spring training in Tucson.

During the Board of Supervisors meeting, Elias was critical of Glendale and Phoenix charging they twisted the purpose of legislation establishing the Arizona Sports Authority by using tax dollars to recruit a team from elsewhere in Arizona. "We don't play that way down here," he said. He said Pima County should work to recruit another major league team currently training in another state.

Under the agreement, the White Sox will work to recruit another team for Pima County, but there is no assurance they would be successful. The team would also continue to provide additional support to the baseball complex on East Ajo Way. Also, the team agrees to play an annual game in Tucson benefiting local charities.

The White Sox began holding spring training in Tucson in 1998, moving here from Sarasota, Florida, where they had trained for nearly 40 years.

The White Sox will train at a facility in Glendale along with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are leaving Dodgertown in Florida.