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Phoenix, Scottsdale sued over plans to use public land for SF Giants training facility

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Posted at 2:01 PM, Jan 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-28 20:31:18-05

PHOENIX — Open space and public parks or a giant sports complex for private use by a major league Baseball team?

That issue is now at the center of a lawsuit filed by members of a group called "Friends of Papago Park" against the cities of Phoenix and Scottsdale.

The group consists of over a hundred people who are all users of Papago Park. From hikers and bikers, to runners and photographers, the group has been vocal about preserving what they consider a state treasure.

Two members of the group have taken on the initiative to sue the cities over the construction of a new San Francisco Giants training facility on land located near 64th Street and McDowell Road.

Lasse Norgaard-Larsen is one of the two men behind this lawsuit. He described the area as a hot spot for outdoor enthusiasts.

"I mean, it is one of the most photographed places I would say in the Phoenix-metro area," said Norgaard-Larsen.

The City of Phoenix has said old baseball fields in the area cost about $850,000 to maintain. The city of Phoenix leased the land to the city of Scottsdale for 35 years.

"The city of Scottsdale turned it around and leased it out to the San Francisco Giants for a private baseball training facility. Not a stadium, but a private training facility," added Norgaard-Larsen.

Last year a City of Phoenix official told ABC15 that there may be some possibility of using the facility for tournaments in the future.

Norgaard-Larsen questioned, at what cost? "If you start chipping away at the park well yeah, you'll make a lot of money but there's no park left," he said.

"Our counter-argument is well we should probably start selling all our parks then, because none of them generate money. We should probably start selling Camelback off because there's a lot of real estate value there, we should sell South Mountain as well," he added.

The lawsuit includes the original deed signed by former President Franklin D. Roosevelt gifting much of the land, once considered a national monument, to the state of Arizona. The state sold the land to the city of Phoenix in 1959.

Papago Park includes nearly 1,500 acres of land with most of it located in Phoenix, and the rest in the city of Tempe.

Both land transfers include language stating the land should be used as a public park, and if that cannot be accomplished the land should be transferred back to the custody of the United States of America.

The agreement between the state and Phoenix states "lands shall be used only for municipal park, recreation, or public convenience purposes…if the lands or any part thereof shall be abandoned for such use, such lands, or such part, shall revert back to the United States of America.”

ABC15 has reached out to the cities of Phoenix and Scottsdale for a comment.

A Phoenix spokesman sent us this statement: "City of Phoenix staff is aware the lawsuit has been filed and does not comment on pending litigation."

In a statement, the City of Scottsdale says, "The City of Scottsdale is confident that it will prevail in this suit, and is working collaboratively with the City of Phoenix to defend it."

Larson-Norgaard said filing a lawsuit was the last resort for them. They had hoped to be able to sit down and come to a mutual solution with the cities.

"I'm sad and disappointed that the community can't reach city officials unless you file a lawsuit, and the risk is once you file a lawsuit, then they don't want to talk to you either because now it's pending litigation," he said.

You can read the full lawsuit which includes copies of the deeds at Friends of Papago Park.