Sports

A canceled Spring Training would be devastating to economies in Florida, Arizona

MLB Spring Training lockout
Posted at 9:52 AM, Feb 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-21 15:50:25-05

Last week, MLB confirmed that due to an ongoing lockout imposed by team owners, the start of Spring Training would be delayed by at least a week.

While the owners and the MLB Players' Association are expected to ramp up negotiations this week in the hopes of salvaging the preseason, reports indicate that both sides remain far apart on several key issues.

The delay is devastating for cities in Arizona and Florida that host Spring Training games. Many communities were hoping 2022 would mark a return to normalcy after COVID-19 wiped out most Spring Training in 2020 and limited attendance in 2021. Now, the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues are dealing with the possibility of another canceled preseason.

"We're not happy," said Steve Adams of the HoHoKams in Mesa, Arizona.

The HoHoKams is a nonprofit that was established decades ago to assist with many aspects of Spring Training in Mesa. The group handles parking and other key operations during Oakland A's and Chicago Cubs games and then donates the revenue to local youth organizations and charities.

Adams says the delay of Spring Training — and its potential cancellation — could mean fewer funds for local athletics.

"That decreases the amount of money we're going to have for youth sports and nonprofits in the East Valley," Adams said.

Lakeland, Florida, has hosted the Detroit Tigers' camp every year since 1946. Kevin Cook, the city's director of communications, says Spring Training has become a key stream of revenue, accounting for $55 million for the local economy.

"That's just not what takes place around the stadium, but that's also the trickle-down into bars, restaurants, rental car facilities, things of that nature," Cook said. "That's really big, and those businesses that count on those dollars. It's going to definitely affect their pocketbook."

To the west in Dunedin, Florida — the Spring Home for the Toronto Blue Jays — local business owners say they hope to see fans in the stands in the weeks ahead.

"If the games don't happen this year, it's not good for us. It's not good for the city," said Ralph Kleinchrod, the owner of Home Plate restaurant. "[If] it's coming later, it's delayed, it's OK, it's not a big problem if they are here. But if they stopped completely, this is really bad for everybody here."

This story was originally published by Mary O'Connell and others on Scripps stations KNXV in Phoenix and WFTS in Tampa.