Any County Aid on Ballpark Is Welcome
Commentary by Rick Bell
Much like a relief pitcher coming on in the late innings of a tight ballgame, the county’s willingness to help the city finally get the Padres’ ballpark built is welcome news indeed.
It was becoming painfully obvious that San Diego officials were struggling to restart the massive billion-dollar redevelopment project. So much so, the project is two years behind schedule and there are questions challenging whether it would be finished at all.
Worse, public confidence in the city’s ability to pull off the massive 26-block project has been eroding. While the county can’t erase the funding snafus and scandals that have plagued the city’s efforts, its potential participation does bring fresh hope.
The county’s role in ballpark construction has yet to be defined, and ultimately their help may not even be needed in light of a Superior Court ruling that appears to pave the way for construction to start once again. But the city has been poised to sell bonds and begin work several times in the past, only to see another roadblock placed in its path.
The county’s role may only be one of a civic cheerleader, but it has developed a reputation as a well-run public agency with a will to get the job done. This is a no-nonsense bunch who long ago realized the value of running government like a business.
Understandably, county officials want no part of the litany of lawsuits that have plagued the Downtown project. They are approaching this venture with great caution.
What’s ultimately important is the county’s gesture toward the city. That county officials even took this step also says something about their faith in the long-term value of the ballpark and the surrounding East Village development. From the start this was a regional project.
Unfortunately, the previous city administration snubbed their collective noses at the county. Supervisor Pam Slater went so far as to call the negotiations in the spring of 1998 “a joke.”
The snub was a downright embarrassment and is a legacy befitting of the Susan Golding administration, the same one that pushed the notion a ballpark could be built out of the pockets of unsuspecting tourists.
Well, those thousands of hotel rooms are nowhere in sight, the Padres are justifiably frustrated over the progress of the project altogether and the current administration is scrambling to make up the difference for Golding’s folly. It’s coming full circle now, as those actions four years ago now leaves the city little room to bargain with the county, or any partner, for that matter.
Make no mistake: As much as the city needs the moral support from the county, this is a business deal. And at this juncture, the city needs all the business-savvy partners it can get.
, Rick Bell