U of A Hi Corbett deal brings big investment, opportunity

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TUCSON, Ariz. -- U of A Baseball will move to midtown Tucson, to play at Hi Corbett field.

The city council tentatively approved a deal late Monday, and Tuesday both sides got together to spread the news.

U of A baseball has been seeing red and feeling blue, taking a $750,000 net loss every season.

Hi Corbett will see a major transformation. The U of A will spend at least $250,000 to brand it, plus a long term investment to upgrade the facility.

"Who gets to throw out the first pitch, we're gonna wrestle on that a little bit," said Mayor Bob Walkup.

The University and the city are also wrestling with how to go about selling beer at the ballpark.

"Cold beer at a baseball game isn't a bad thing," said Athletic Director Greg Byrne.  "We'll be very strict with how we monitor it."

"We're not going to run people out of Hi Corbett drunk," said Councilman Steve Kozachik.

The tentative plan calls for beer sales through the first five innings.

But the details still have to be hammered out.

"Will that help the financial model?  Certainly, it would be naive not to say so," said Byrne.

The lager sales will also help the city.  Tucson is set to receive 2% of all concessions sold.

"Having 2% of concessions can't be all bad," said mayor Bob Walkup.

"The city's going to benefit from this whether the university sells beer or not," said Kozachik.

The city will also receive $250,000 a year in rent. More than enough to cover the cost of Hi Corbett's maintenance.

"It's a win win for the city and the university," said Kozachik.

Wildcat fans are hoping the move to a professional ballpark, and the sales that come with it, will help turnaround U of A baseball.

To move forward with the U of A, the city had to terminate its contract with the Tucson Toros.

Tucson Toros owner Jay Zucker was in court Wednesday filing a lawsuit to force the city to honor the remaining two years of its contract with his team.

U of A Athletic Director Greg Byrne said Wednesday it was in January that he and some of the athletic administration first looked at the possibility of Hi Corbett field as a destination for the Wildcat baseball program.

Byrne said he wants to be at the forefront of the arms race that has become big-time collegiate athletics and that a move like this benefits not just the baseball program but the entire region.

"We make sure we honor the past. We have vision for the future and we move forward in every opportunity we can to put us in the best possible position to graduate our student athletes to give them a great experience academically, athletically and socially and give an opportunity for a community to be engaged," said U of A Athletic Director Greg Byrne.

"I truly believe that this will help us. It will benefit us in terms of recruiting. It will benefit us hosting regionals and if anybody does their homework and looks at the statistics. The NCAA statistics tell you that 78% of the time the team that hosts usually advances so it helps," said U of A baseball Coach Andy Lopez.

The Wildcats have been to five regionals since Andy Lopez arrived in 2002.

They've had to travel away from Tucson all five times, now they did win twice on the road but U of A has not hosted an NCAA regional since 1992 and this move will give them a better shot to attain that opportunity down the road.