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Suns' Owner Makes Move Official

Baseball: Don DiCarlo is confident his Palm Springs club will be a hit in Oxnard. The agreement is still subject to City Council approval.

November 09, 1996|LORENZA MUNOZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

OXNARD — As Oxnard City Council members voiced unanimous support for a minor league baseball team in the city, the owner of the Palm Springs Suns officially announced his plans Friday to relocate to Ventura County for the 1997 season.

Councilmen Bedford Pinkard, Andres Herrera, Dean Maulhardt, Tom Holden and Mayor Manuel Lopez all said they support the Western League Class-AA ballclub's relocation--provided the city does not pay for it.

But city leaders hinted they would consider making a substantial loan.

"As long as we do not have to provide any funding I think it would be OK," Lopez said. "If we were to be called to pay for it, then I would have some concerns."

Added Maulhardt: "I think minor league baseball could be a big plus for Oxnard. I'm looking forward to it."

The agreement must go to the City Council before Nov. 20, the deadline for next year's Western League schedule.

At a press conference Friday, Suns' owner Don DiCarlo said he was confident his baseball team would be a success in Oxnard.

"We expect the Suns to be of the people and to be very aware of local talent," said DiCarlo, who was accompanied by his wife, Karen. "There are a lot of young families in Oxnard. That is important to the success of baseball. The community is growing and there is a strong military [presence]--military guys love baseball."

Steve Kinney, who has been negotiating with the team as president of Oxnard's Economic Development Corp., said it was unclear how much money, if any, the city would need to loan the team to improve Oxnard College's baseball field.

As it is now, the ball field is in relatively poor condition. It has seating for only 500 spectators, and would need bathrooms and concession stands to operate for a minor league team.

Kinney estimates it would cost about $200,000 to improve the field, add lighting for night games and build seating for at least 3,000. He expected the financial details to be worked out in a few weeks.

*

A nonbinding agreement, signed by DiCarlo, city and college representatives, outlines several conditions for the Suns to move to Oxnard for the 1997 season. It spells out that the Suns would commit exclusively to Oxnard, provide temporary lockers for its players and collect all revenue from food and drink concessions as well as parking fees.

The city of Oxnard, under the agreement, promises to hire a consultant to determine the viability of building a new stadium and financing the cost of installing lights.

The college agreed to allow the Suns to use the field, but imposed several other conditions.

For instance, college officials said they could not permit the sale of alcoholic beverages, would not pay for any part of the deal, and would not allow the team to interfere with students' use of the field.

"I think there are some real positives," Deputy Chancellor Michael Gregoryk said of the budding deal. "But there are also some concerns."

Gregoryk said the college's board of trustees could vote as soon as Nov. 19 to approve the baseball team's proposed relocation.

At Friday's press conference, the DiCarlos spent most of the time clearing up what they believed were misperceptions of problems that their team has faced over the past two years in Palm Springs.

City officials said DiCarlo owes Palm Springs $28,450. But DiCarlo said any lease agreement or debt he had with Palm Springs would be cleared up before a move to Oxnard.

A Suns' pitcher who was charged, but acquitted, with rape is no longer with the team, DiCarlo said. He said the Suns' marketing consultant who is now being prosecuted for lewd conduct is also no longer with the team.

*

DiCarlo also said the negative publicity surrounding "Naked Night" and "Drag Queen Night" was overblown by a hostile local newspaper in Palm Springs. Naked Night--where fans could watch the game presumably in the buff--was meant as "just a fun promotion," DiCarlo said. That event ended up being canceled.

DiCarlo said he was optimistic about Oxnard and the team's relationship with the community.

"Oxnard is a hard-working city," DiCarlo said. "And they may be seen as the underdog city in this baseball competition," he said, referring to the proposed plans by neighboring cities Ventura and Camarillo to attract a minor league team.

"Oxnard doesn't have a big stadium, it doesn't have big plans yet," DiCarlo said. "I think Oxnard is doing things the right way."

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