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Panel Pitches Joint Powers Authority to Run Ballpark : Stadium: Committee suggests Oxnard, Camarillo and Ventura form a Tri-Cities Sports Authority to own and operate the minor league baseball site.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A committee working to bring minor league baseball to Ventura County recommended Thursday the formation of a joint powers authority by Oxnard, Camarillo and Ventura to pay for a $15-million stadium.

The committee, endorsing a consultant’s conclusions, also ranked Ventura as the best site for a minor league ballpark, even though a last-minute offer of free land by a Camarillo owner has thrown a curve into the selection process.

Without private funding for the 5,500-seat ballpark, the committee said a joint powers authority is the most realistic alternative.

The new Tri-Cities Sports Authority would own and operate the ballpark and share all costs and profits. To pay for the stadium, the authority would issue bonds guaranteed by the cities. Oxnard City Councilman Andres Herrera, a stadium backer, said he supports the authority idea only as a last resort.

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“I’m not adverse to that, but the vehicle has to provide the least possible liability,” Herrera said.

As now conceived, the stadium could also be used for concerts, carnivals, boxing matches and other events. It could be built by April, 1996, according to the consultant, the Spectrum Group.

The Oxnard, Ventura and Camarillo city councils are scheduled to meet Oct. 12 in Camarillo to discuss stadium issues, including the joint powers authority.

A final decision on stadium construction is expected in November.

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The drive to lure a minor league team to the county began in the spring when Joe Gagliardi, president of the California League, promised to deliver a Class A club if a stadium was built.

The three cities formed a committee in May and have spent $85,000 to study the idea.

After five months of considering a variety of locations for the new park, Spectrum selected the parcel near the Ventura Auto Center as the best among four sites in Ventura, Camarillo and Oxnard.

The location’s most important pluses are its proximity to the Ventura Freeway, and an offer by the Hofer family to donate about one-fifth of the 53 acres.

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But a Camarillo investment group whose land had not been considered as a site offered this week to donate 25 of the 35 acres needed for a stadium, and the committee has decided to evaluate that proposal.

“As it stands right now, the best offer on the table is the Ventura site,” Ventura City Councilman Jack Tingstrom said. “With the Camarillo site, there are still a lot of questions.”

The newly proposed location, south of the Ventura Freeway near Camarillo Airport, is bound by too many zoning restrictions to be a serious candidate, Tingstrom said. He added that the owner is seeking significant concessions from Camarillo in exchange for its land.

“It’s a little late,” he said. "(And) they want to develop 143 acres for their 25 acres.”

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But Camarillo Mayor Ken Gose said that the committee would be foolish not to seriously consider a donation of about $2 million in land.

“The land would be considerably cheaper,” Gose said. “We’re talking about a lot of money here.”

Spectrum, an experienced Irvine-based sports consultant, selected the four locations from nine in July.

Of those four, a 30-acre tract near Camarillo Springs Golf Course in Camarillo ranked second after the Ventura Auto Center site. And a 49-acre site on Rice Avenue near Gonzales Road ranked third.

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The other site, 72 acres near Del Norte Boulevard and Rice Avenue in Oxnard, was eliminated after its owner refused to sell.

“All three sites compared very favorably, but it all came down to land donations,” Gose said. “Some places offered some land and others didn’t.”

Despite the so-called “final” rankings, no city is out of contention as the possible home of the new park, committee members said.

Property owners will be asked to submit their final offers to the committee by Oct. 27. Haggling is expected between committee members and landowners over land donations and the breaks the cities would grant in exchange.

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“We’re hoping someone donates all of the land,” Tingstrom said. “What we have to give up to get that is the important part.”

The consultant projected that attendance for 68 home games of a Class A baseball team each season would be about 340,000--a near sellout every game. Such a turnout would be comparable to two extremely successful minor league franchises in Rancho Cucamonga and Lake Elsinore. Tickets would cost about $5.

NEXT STEP

The Oxnard, Ventura and Camarillo city councils will discuss stadium issues at a public study session Oct. 12 in Camarillo. A final decision on building a $15-million ballpark is expected in November.

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