Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Goodyear, Glendale eye vacant land near ballparks

Goodyear and Glendale are years behind in building proposed hotels, restaurants and shops that were to surround the multimillion-dollar stadiums in the Cactus League.

Three years after the training ballparks were built, fans are left with little more to do than walk to and from the parking lots.

Land that had been planned to house a hotel and convention center, restaurants and offices became mired in foreclosures, bankruptcies and legal wrangling.

Leaders in both cities worry how they will pay off the complexes. Dwindling tourism-tax revenue collected by the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority has meant a funding shortfall for stadium improvements.

Glendale and Goodyear are on the hook for $63 million and $43 million in stadium costs, respectively, that city leaders had expected would be paid by the tourism authority.

With a legal battle over development rights winding down, Goodyear Mayor Georgia Lord talks of circumstances beyond the city's control.

"It's a very emotional time," she said. "Some of those memories and heartaches are going to linger, but I think this is the time to finish it up, and we'll just get on with whatever next is going to happen with our stadium."

Glendale is also deflated over expectations surrounding its spring-training complex, Camelback Ranch Glendale. The city borrowed $200 million for the project. Sales taxes from surrounding amenities were expected to help pay for it.

"Camelback Ranch to me is the big drain," Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs said two months ago during discussions on how the city could restructure its debt.

But both cities are taking steps to jump-start construction. Goodyear recently settled a lawsuit, a move city leaders hope will pave the way for commercial development around its remote ballpark southeast of Estrella Parkway and Yuma Road. And land surrounding Glendale's ballpark, once tied up in foreclosure, is up for sale again. Much of the land surrounding the stadiums is on the market again or is expected to be soon.

Goodyear earlier this month approved paying $1.1 million to settle with a bank and landowner, a move that will soon put roughly 100 acres around its $123 million ballpark up for sale.

For Glendale, the lender that foreclosed on a huge chunk of land was the only bidder to buy it. A key 70-acre parcel next to the stadium was put on the block two months ago.

"We've had offers," said Mark Winkleman, chief operating officer of ML Manager LLC. "Nothing that we've accepted yet, but we hope to before too long."

A Main Street never built

Camelback Ranch, at Camelback Road and 107th Avenue, is surrounded by 166-acres that was to be called Main Street. Developers spent $120 million on land and zoning to build a sprawling, sports-themed office, shopping and resort complex. The land could support 2.8 million square feet of development.

But when the market crashed and developers defaulted on loans, ML Manager, successor to lender Mortgages Ltd., began foreclosure proceedings. ML Manager has control of roughly 86 acres near the ballpark, including a 70-acre site on the southwestern corner of 99th and Maryland avenues.

The city hopes the land will ultimately contain mixed-use development primarily focused on employment, residential, lodging and higher-end retail.

The complex is on land owned by Glendale, but the land is actually in Phoenix.

A broker offering the land has plans to approach a new ownership group of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who share Camelback Ranch with the Chicago White Sox. There are several groups of bidders vying for the Dodgers.

"There is a need out there today for amenities and housing for the teams," said Brent Moser, Cassidy Turley executive vice president.

The other option for the area is a limited-service hotel, Moser said. The developer has taken calls from those who want land to build higher-end hotels closer to Loop 101 and Westgate City Center, in time for the area to host the Super Bowl in 2015, Moser said.

Apartments would likely be the easiest to build on land near the stadium, but "I don't know if that's the highest and best use for this property long-term," Moser said.

The White Sox believe growth around the stadium is only a matter of time.

"Certainly, more stores, shops, restaurants and hotels benefit White Sox fans during their visits to spring training, but that scale of economic development benefits Glendale and the residents of the West Valley year-round as well," said Scott Reifert, team spokesman.

'No win here'

At Goodyear Ballpark, where the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians train, attendance has been at the bottom of the Cactus League for two consecutive seasons.

Development plans around the stadium called for a hotel and convention center, restaurants and offices.

But legal battles between a bank, city and family landowners broke out over costs associated with streets, utilities and other work needed to develop land around the stadium.

When the disagreement threatened to delay construction of the ballpark, Goodyear took control of the loan and finished the job.

In June 2009, the bank sued, saying the city's action accelerated the due date on its loan to the family, and they defaulted in 2008. The suit was part of the bank's effort to foreclose on the land surrounding the stadium and south of Lower Buckeye Parkway.

The family filed a lawsuit against the city in January 2010, arguing the city received benefits it did not pay for.

The settlement agreement reached by the City Council earlier this month clears up all the issues related to the title of the land and its development rights.

The bank plans to market the property as soon as a bankruptcy court agrees to the settlement.

City officials say there has been development inquiries about the land, but it has been tied up in litigation. They want to put the issue behind them.

"Unfortunately, there is no win here in this situation," said Vice Mayor Joanne Osborne before approving the settlement.

by John Yantis - Mar. 26, 2012 09:32 PM The Republic | azcentral.com

Goodyear, Glendale eye vacant land near ballparks

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