Public financing for Blaze baseball stadium not an option

BAKERSFIELD, Calif.(KBAK/KBFX) There appears to be no alternative source of funding to build a new stadium for the Bakersfield Blaze minor-league baseball team.

Current Blaze owners Gene Voiland and Chad Hathaway said this week they have failed to recruit enough investors to build a new stadium for the team, falling short by millions of dollars.

Without a new stadium, Minor League Baseball might pull out of Bakersfield and head for a city with new or nicer amenities.

"I think there's a real good possibility," said Bakersfield Mayor Harvey Hall.

Some cities, such as Fresno and Stockton, have used public money to build stadiums for their ball teams.

Fresno built Chukchansi Park at a cost of around $50 million for its Triple-A team, the Grizzlies, which is affiliated with the San Francisco Giants.

But, cities that take this route also take a risk. Built in 2001, Fresno banked on the downtown stadium to help revitalize and boost the local economy. But, when the recession hit a few years later, the city was left struggling to pay off the debt.

That fact is not lost on Bakersfield city leaders. City Manager Alan Tandy said he sees no possibility the city would use money to help build the new Blaze stadium.

"I would be very, very surprised if that were possible," said Tandy.

The city manager cited a host of other expenses that have hit the city, which had to lay off 17 percent of its workforce, though some have been rehired.

Blaze co-owner Voiland acknowledged it would be difficult to convince the city to use money on a stadium.

"When the recession hit and suddenly you don't have enough money for roads, and you don't have money for basic services, the populace just doesn't want the cities and public authorities investing in sports teams and stadiums," said Voiland.

The state also ended redevelopment. Redevelopment funds allowed cities and counties to finance projects.