Update on “baseball McMansions” in Arizona: White Sox also facing issues

Yesterday, I wrote about a new spring training facility in Arizona that one writer dubbed a “baseball McMansion.” While this particular park may have issues, it is not the only one. The Chicago White Sox also recently moved to the same area. Because of the economic recession, the White Sox are having attendance issues and the mixed-use development that was supposed to surround their facility has not been built:

Small crowds on the west side of the Valley are an alarming trend as the White Sox and other neighboring teams try to rebound in the wake of a depressed area.

“The opening of the Rockies-Diamondbacks stadium (Talking Stick at Salt River Fields) is definitely pulling people away,” Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said before 10,074 fans attended Wednesday’s game between the Sox and world champion Giants. “Now you have six teams in the east valley…”

But the Glendale area hasn’t developed into what the Sox thought when they decided to move from Tucson after the 2008 season.”One of the attractions to putting this ballpark here was the plan for what was going to be built around it,” Reinsdorf said. “By now, in our third year, we were supposed to be looking at restaurants and retail and a hotel and condominiums. And the guys who were going to do that went broke. So we’re sort of sitting out here by ourselves.

“All of the projections for the Phoenix area growth had Glendale in 10 years being the population center of the valley, a ton of people west of here. And that stopped. But at some point the economy will come back. This is too vibrant an area. And when it does come back, those projections will come true. So it’s just a delay.”

It may be some time before the White Sox and other teams see an uptick in attendance and building as Arizona has been hit hard by the economic recession, evidenced by foreclosures and a slowdown in development. Reinsdorf sounds quite optimistic about the future – perhaps he has to be if he has put a decent amount of money into this project.

it seems like now would be the time to look into why exactly the White Sox and other teams moved to this area. In their projections about Glendale, was their any allowance for a growth slowdown? Was the main draw the growing population in this area or were there certain financial incentives that made this move attractive? And what will happen to these spring training complexes if population growth in this area is limited for a significant amount of time?

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