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Storm to have a stadium roommate for next season

Planning is under way for the Lake Elsinore Storm baseball team to accommodate a roommate for one season or more at its picturesque stadium.

Preparations are now being made to make physical and scheduling space for the Portland Beavers at the southwest Riverside County minor league baseball field that is set amid jagged hills and alongside a natural lake that blankets about 3,300 acres.

“I’m assuming they’re coming unless someone tells me something different,” Gary Jacobs, an owner of the Storm team, said in an interview at the stadium last week. “We’re planning for them.”

That possibly of the stadium hosting two teams has been spotlighted by far-flung media reports even though no deals have formally been announced. The Beavers’ prospective arrival is set against the possibility that the franchise will move to a 9,000-seat ballpark that would be built in Escondido or San Marcos for about $45 million.

Jacobs said he has expressed his willingness to share the stadium with the Beavers – whether it takes one year or two – until such a ballpark could be proposed, approved and built in Escondido or elsewhere in the region.

The Storm and Beavers are both affiliated with the Padres. The Storm is the Padres’ Class A affiliate team. Jacobs is a longtime Padres board member.

“We’re part of the system,” Jacobs said. “We’re happy to host the (Beavers) team while they’re getting that done down there.”

The owner of the Triple-A Beavers is looking to relocate the franchise because its home stadium, PGE Park, will no longer be available. The park is being renovated because the Portland Timbers team was granted a franchise in Major League Soccer next year. The renovation will make the Timbers that park’s primary tenant.

Because there would be two “home” teams if the Beavers move to Lake Elsinore, Jacobs said an additional locker room would need to be added to The Diamond. Also, playing game days would need to be allocated to squeeze in a total of 140 home games for both teams while giving the grass field time to recover, Jacobs said.

The stadium can seat more than 8,000 baseball fans in 6,066 fixed seats, 11 luxury suites and a sloping, grassy area. The stadium contains a restaurant and a children’s play zone.

Despite initial concerns among some residents over Lake Elsinore’s future debt obligation, the city put workers on overtime and pushed hard to open The Diamond stadium in 1994 for the team’s opening season.

“These things we have to plan now so everything is in place in April when the season begins,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs and Les Simon have been co-owners of the Storm for the past nine years, according to the team’s Internet site.

The Storm is one of five Minor League teams scattered throughout Southern California. The other teams are in Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino, Lancaster and Adelanto. Sports Illustrated has described The Diamond as perhaps the most idyllic in the Minor Leagues.

Planning for the Beavers’ arrival is unfolding as the Storm scores one of its most successful seasons in team history. This is a banner year for the Storm in the standings and attendance as the team prepares for the playoffs in the 10-team California League.

By mid-July, the team was leading the league for the first time ever with its 3,400-per-game spectator average, officials said. At that point, the Storm had seen about 172,000 fans pass through its turnstiles this season.

Hosting the Beavers could attract a far wider and more diverse spectator base to the stadium, Jacobs said. That would likely add to, not draw away, loyal Storm fans, he said.

“When the Triple-A team leaves, people will be used to coming here,” Jacobs said. “It will be good for us.”

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