Arizona officials woo Cleveland Indians - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Arizona officials woo Cleveland Indians

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - The Cleveland Indians, a team that spent 46 springs training in Tucson, are being wooed by Arizona to return.

Such a move from the team's current spring training site in Winter Haven, Fla., would not only be a coup for the Cactus League but would rekindle memories for southern Arizonans who grew up watching stars including Rocky Colavito, Frank Robinson and Albert Belle take swings at Hi Corbett Field.

"My gut feeling is that they are sincerely interested in the Cactus League," said John Benton, a member of the Arizona Tourism and Sports Authority.

Indians spokesman Bob DiBiasio, told the Arizona Daily Star that the team is considering several training sites. He said Arizona officials have contacted the club about returning to Tucson.

"We are one of the few teams that have made it known right now that we are out exploring various options for our spring training home," DiBiasio said.

Benton said that officials are looking at ways in which Indians' spring training might fit in with the activities of other teams.

If the Indians were to move back, the team could play at Tucson Electric Park while the Chicago White Sox would train at a new, yet-to-be-built stadium in Maricopa County, officials have theorized.

Maricopa County voters approved creation of the Tourism and Sports Authority in 2000 through car rental and hotel taxes. The organization is charged with the retention and expansion of the Cactus League.

But the authority may not be able to build any new stadiums as it pays for renovations at Phoenix Municipal Stadium and several others.

Kris Mayes, spokeswoman for Gov. Janet Napolitano, would only speak generally about the importance of baseball in Arizona.

"It's very premature to speculate where the funding would come from or how a deal would come together. We have discussed the possibility of any number of teams possibly moving here."

Although the Indians aren't expected to return to Tucson for next year's spring training, team officials didn't say the city is out of the running, either.

"We said we're willing to explore anything. To make that move in the short term would obviously be impossible. Whether or not it's viable five years from now, who knows?" DiBiasio said.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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