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October 25, 2011

Host: Ted Simons

Arizona Fall League

  |   Video
  • Now in its 20th season, the Arizona Fall League has been preparing Major League Baseball’s hottest minor league prospects to move up to the big leagues. AFL Executive Director Steve Cobb talks about the league’s first two decades.
  • Steve Cobb - AFL Executive Director
Category: Sports   |   Keywords: sports, baseball, fall, league,

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Ted Simons: If you've been watching the World Series, you've been watching a number of baseball players who made the jump to the big leagues after competing in the Arizona Fall League, which is designed to help develop the sport's top prospects. Now in its 20th season, the fall league has earned quite a reputation for turning out talent. Look no further than the 2011 All-Star game played here in Phoenix, 41 players on all-star rosters were Fall League alums. Here to tell us more about the Fall League is Steve Cobb, he's Major League Baseball's director of the Arizona Fall League. Good to see you again. Thanks for joining us.

Steve Cobb: It’s always great to visit with you.

Ted Simons: 20th, are you surprised this has lasted for 20 years?

Steve Cobb: There's really been an evolution with the league, and to look back for -- I've been here 19 of those 20, and to look back and see how the respective major league organizations have embraced this league and now actually utilize it, it's very rewarding. And just the numbers of -- sheer numbers of players that have played in this league and gone on to the major leagues. That number is pushing 2,000 players.

Ted Simons: My goodness. But was it tough for the league, for the baseball clubs, the big league clubs to embrace this thing at first? I know it was just getting this whole thing started was a project.

Steve Cobb: Well, when you -- at the very beginning when we started the concept, it involved putting five organizations together, and just sharing information, different approaches, in terms of player development was a real concern. But over the years the organizations have learned that this process does work, it’s beneficial for the players, it's beneficial for the staff.

Ted Simons: And it's basically a domestic option for places like Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, these kinds of winner ball places.

Steve Cobb: Exactly. That's why it was created, so that primarily U.S.-born players could stay here in the states and hone their skills. Before this league they had to go to the other countries and the cultural differences in certain cases presented challenges for them.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about some of these players. These aren't just good players or they could be good players, this is the cream of the crop in terms of prospects, correct?

Steve Cobb: Absolutely. These are the players that are literally on the cusps of making it to the major leagues. Many of them most fans have not heard of yet, but one year from now after 19 years of operation, I can simply say that between 75-100 players that are in this league this year will make it to the major leagues, and the numbers go up even greater after a two-year span.

Ted Simons: So who decides which players play in the league and which players play on which teams?

Steve Cobb: Well, the players are invited by their parent organization. So if you put that in perspective, each organization must send seven players, and there's 125-to-150 players in a minor league system. So if you're selected one of the seven, you're feeling pretty good about yourself and frankly, you're probably pretty talented. So that whole process is done by the organizations, and then we put the five organizations together to form the rosters.

Ted Simons: OK, let's talk about the games themselves. Where do the teams play and when do they play?

Steve Cobb: Well, we're actually about halfway through our season right now. We began on October 4th, and we'll continue through November 19th. We play in six spring training sites, we play at Surprise Stadium, Peoria Stadium, Mesa Hohokam Stadium, Phoenix Municipal Stadium, Scottsdale Stadium, and the brand-new Salt River Fields Stadium.

Ted Simons: That was the one I was wondering about. That's got to be a gem, to be able to play there?

Steve Cobb: It's a wonderful facility. Fans have been responding to that. It's just a great place to watch a game if you haven't been out to a Fall League game.

Ted Simons: Talk about the fans. How many fans usually go to a game? Day games, night games, weekend? Change much?

Steve Cobb: Yes. We'll draw less people during the day. We normally have two day games and one night game. The day games are at 12:35 and 6:35 for the evening, that's set up primarily for the scouting community. They can come in, see an afternoon game and then go to the night game, and then in theory when they do that, they have covered 20 organizations in just one day.

Ted Simons: Wow. Describe the crowd. Who shows up for these things? I know I show up for a couple, but who besides me?

Steve Cobb: During the day we get a significant retiree population, certainly people that are into autograph seekers and people of that nature. And then just real avid baseball fans. It's a real nice comfortable crowd, and at night we tend to attract more families that will come to our games.

Ted Simons: And the weather at night right now is fantastic.

Steve Cobb: It's perfect.

Ted Simons: Perfect baseball weather.

Steve Cobb: We're not dealing with the weather they've been having in St. Louis for the World Series.

Ted Simons: And it sounds like they have 100% chance rain for the next game. Training ground for umpires, training ground for coaches, and future managers as well?

Steve Cobb: The development thread goes through the umpires, the managers, we've had 29 former Fall League managers become Major League managers. Managers like Mike Scioscia, managers like Terry Francona, and Don Maddingly. Some big names. And same thing with the umpiring community. Over 50% of the Major League umpires right now had their final training in the Arizona Fall League.

Ted Simons: You said you've been here 19 of the 20 years. That's a lot of years, a lot of baseball. Is there a memory that sticks out?

Steve Cobb: The one memory that I will never forget, and it's -- I'll make this a short story, there was a player by the name of Butch Huskey. This was in 1993, my first year. Butch was property of the Mets. He hit a home run over Mesa Hohokam Stadium, simple enough, but in the process dislocated his shoulder, his swing was so hard that he dislocated his shoulder and was unable to run the bases. So another runner from his team actually went around and hit the bases and scored the home run.

Ted Simons: This guy was probably writhing on the ground?

Steve Cobb: Absolutely. Never forget it as long as I live, and I didn't know what the rule was.

Ted Simons: Can you do that?

Steve Cobb: You can in that situation because he physically could not run.

Ted Simons: My goodness. Reminds me of who was the player that just hurt himself, from the Phillies, Frank -- Frank Thomas the guy that made the last out in the Phillies series?

Steve Cobb: Ryan Howard.

Ted Simons: Ryan Howard. He hurt his Achilles tendon. Hey, more information, is there a website?

Steve Cobb: Yes. You can go to

Ted Simons: All right. Very good. Good to have you here. Have fun this fall.

Steve Cobb: We will. Come out and see us.

Ted Simons: All right. Sounds good.

Commercial Real Estate Analysis

  |   Video
  • Craig Henig, Senior Managing Director of the Arizona region for CBRE, discusses his company’s analysis of the Metro Phoenix commercial real estate market for the third quarter of 2011.
  • Craig Henig - CBRE, Senior Managing Director
Category: Business/Economy   |   Keywords: housing, market, real estate, analysis,

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Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. There are signs of improvement in the business real estate market. Office, industrial, and retail space have shown some recent signs of absorbing excess space. Here to talk about the market is Craig Henig, Senior Managing Director of the Arizona region for CBRE, a real estate services company. It's good to have you here. What did your report look at?

Craig Henig: If you look at industrial first, you can see a significant change in our year over year absorption and vacancy rates, primarily due to our big box distribution buildings being leased. And another big sign of attracting companies such as Amazon who took the large chunks of space we had out there that were available.

Ted Simons: If we talk about industrial six straight quarterly reports say a positive absorption. And when we hear that, what does that mean?

Craig Henig: That is net space that is leased and taken off of the market. It isn't where somebody is moving to another building and leaving a vacancy, it's actually net new expansion of an existing presence in the valley, or a new company moving into town.

Ted Simons: You refer to distribution companies, Amazon and such, leading the way. Why is that, do you think?

Craig Henig: For Amazon, number one, A) the taxation that we don't put on internet companies here in Arizona compared to California. B)The affordability of housing, quality of life, and available work force.

Ted Simons: So all those factors come into play on something like this?

Craig Henig: Absolutely.

Ted Simons: Industrial lease rates, looked like they're mostly unchanged. What's going on there?

Craig Henig: In the big box sector, which Amazon has leased, you'll see a slight uptick in rates which was a change in the dynamic for the last couple of years, because we've seen historically low rates back to what we've seen 20 years ago, but with the absorption of the space, demand has helped push rates up slowly.

Ted Simons: You mentioned big box. Let's get to retail now. First quarter of positive absorption rate this year? This the first time we've seen something good happening here?

Craig Henig: In a while. We have about 321 big box spaces available right now representing about 9 million square feet. So it's a big hole. So what we're seeing is some of the people taking advantage, the companies, of these opportunities that weren't there before.

Ted Simons: So basically it sounds as though the absorption rate for this one particular quarter was pretty good, but it's still pretty rough year to year.

Craig Henig: For retail it's probably our sector that is probably feeling this crisis in the economic world the most.

Ted Simons: And asking lease rates it looks like for existing retail is up. How does that work?

Craig Henig: It is up in certain locations. It's not overall. Overall we're seeing retailers going in there and they're looking for the best economic long-term deals as possible.

Ted Simons: And some are obviously getting them, I guess.

Craig Henig: That's also due to location.

Ted Simons: Okay. So give me the good parts and the bad parts.

Craig Henig: The good parts, anything within the loop 101 is considered infill. So when you get closer in to the large regional malls, or power centers that have great locations and vacancies, they can still command the lease rates they would like with less -- fewer concession packages which you see in the fringes out in the southeast valley or out in the Goodyear and Buckeye areas.

Ted Simons: Is that changing? Everything we've talked about so far, we still have to talk about office here. But so far from everything we've discussed, are you seeing changes? Are they positive? Are they negative?

Craig Henig: We're seeing changes as far as for retail, we're seeing positive from the major retailers coming in, they're looking at different footprints, maybe downsizing because there's internet competition, maybe they don't need as much real estate, but they are absorbing some of the real estate. The mom and pop stores are still suffering because they're depending on the consumer spending which obviously right now people are deleveraging, and they're also saving.

Ted Simons: What about mom and pop stores and lease rates? What are they seeing there?

Craig Henig: Mom and pop and lease rates, the lenders and the owners are trying to work with them to extend their lease terms and bring down the lease rates so they can survive this downturn. Additionally, they also try to group amongst the big anchored retailers and if the anchors aren't there, the mom and pops suffer.

Ted Simons: Let's get to office space. Third quarter analysis for office space, the vacancy rate seems, correct me if I'm wrong, but seems to be doing better.

Craig Henig: It is. If you break them down to class A, B, and C, and --

Ted Simons: What does that mean?

Craig Henig: Class A is the best location, best access, newest technology, newer construction, more efficiency, those -- those properties we're seeing get leased up the most right now because people are taking a flight to quality, so with lease rates, historical lows, year over year, we're seeing people moving from class C space to class B space, and class B space to class A.

Ted Simons: Interesting. So they're literally moving on up.

Craig Henig: They're moving on up, and certain pockets are absorbing class A space, such as Downtown and the Scottsdale airport area.

Ted Simons: Subleasing I notice dominates. Explain that, please.

Craig Henig: Sublease is dominating. You have a lot of companies that don't need excess space, so they're putting that space back onto the market, and that competes with our direct space that's available.

Ted Simons: Does that send some kind of signal as far as the economy and the market is concerned?

Craig Henig: Essentially it boils down to we need job creation to fill the space back up.

Ted Simons: Office lease rates down for the sixth straight month, and positive absorption up over 2010, sounds relatively positive.

Craig Henig: You're seeing a lot of national large corporations taking advantage of the -- your two big expenses when you have a company are employment and you also have your occupancy. So right now you can lock in for long-term lease with aggressive concessions, your occupancy costs are going down.

Ted Simons: From everything we've talked about, office, industrial, and retail, some good, some not so good, which of these numbers, which of these categories gives you the most optimism?

Craig Henig: I would have to say industrial is leading the way. Secondly office. The class A space, as well as class B, but the class C, this is some of the older inferior buildings, inferior locations are going to suffer the most and hopefully in the near term, not the short-term, but near term they'll be redeveloped into a better and higher use.

Ted Simons: All right. Very good. Good to have you here.

Craig Henig: Thanks for having me.

Uranium Mining Near the Grand Canyon

  |   Video
  • A discussion about the pros and cons of a proposed 20-year moratorium on new mining claims near the Grand Canyon with Sandy Bahr of the Sierra Club and Pam Hill of the American Clean Energy Resources Trust.
  • Sandy Bahr - Sierra Club
  • Pan Hill - American Clean Energy Resources Trust
Category: Environment   |   Keywords: enviornment, ban, mining, Grand Canyon,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: A growing interest in uranium mining has prompted the U.S. Department of Interior to consider a 20-year ban on new mining claims on nearly 1 million acres of land around the Grand Canyon. A moratorium has been in place for more than two years as the department studies the environmental impacts of mining near the canyon. With that process nearly complete, a final decision is expected soon. Here to talk about the issue is Sandy Bahr, director of the Grand Canyon chapter of the Sierra Club. And Pam hill, executive director of the American clean energy resources trust, a group that opposes a ban on new mining claims. Thanks for joining us. Sandy, let's start with you. Why should new mining claims near the Grand Canyon be stopped?

Sandy Bahr: Well, one, they're by the Grand Canyon, the Grand Canyon is one of the seven natural wonders in the world, it's an economic engine for northern Arizona, and really, all of Arizona people come from all over the world to visit the Grand Canyon. These lands are part of the watershed for the Grand Canyon area, and we think that it's important to protect the watershed, the wildlife, and to really protect the canyon itself for future generations.

Ted Simons: OK. That same question, different angle. Why shouldn't new mining claims out there be stopped?

Pam Hill: People -- the no mining folks conveniently forget that this area north of the Grand Canyon on the Arizona strip was mined throughout the '80s and into the '90s. I happened to work for a company called energy fuels nuclear who mined those seven mines that we found out there. We are not mining in the Grand Canyon. Nor will anyone ever mine in the Grand Canyon. We mined up there for 12, 13 years, and had a historic track record that was second to none. We met all federal and state standards, and -- not only met them, but exceeded the standard.

Sandy Bahr: Where that past mining has taken place, the U.S. geological survey did research and they found elevated radioactivity at all of those mine sites above background levels, many of the -- about 15 springs and five wells exceeded drinking water standards relative to uranium. So there is an impact despite what the mining industry would send.

Ted Simons: I've heard there's no conclusive evidence that modern mining methods harm the watershed up there. You say that's not true?

Sandy Bahr: You can't prove a negative, and the bottom line is there's a long history of contamination. There is a mine in Grand Canyon that continues to contaminate horn creek. These mines, again, around them there's elevated levels of radio activity, if you go to similar geology where it wasn't mined, it's lower. There are 500 mines that haven't been cleaned up on the Navajo nation. There is a long history of contaminating these lands, and we need to say enough and protect what we have.

Ted Simons: Sounds like your company, have you been good stewards, but not every Steward was so good.

Pam Hill: What sandy I think is referring to, the one mine in the Grand Canyon is the old Orphan Mine, which predated the existence of the national park itself. And it was reclaimed or started to be reclaimed, has been started to be reclaimed by the national park service just a few years ago. And the elevated uranium levels that Sandy is talking about around the Orphan Mine have never been proved to come from the actual Orphan Mine itself. You have to understand too that the Grand Canyon is chock full of naturally occurring, what they call -- what we call brush pipes, the unique geological formations that contain uranium in northern Arizona. So at the Orphan Mine it's our belief that up the creek, the Horn Creek a ways, there is exposed brush pipe that is elevating the uranium in the water.

Sandy Bahr: But again, the research --

Pam Hill: none of the water in the Colorado river has -- been proved to be elevated by uranium mining. It all is below EPA drinking water standards.

Ted Simons: Respond, please.

Sandy Bahr: Well, the research that was just conducted last year by the USGS did show elevated levels, did show above drinking water standards in wells and springs, and this is above areas where you would look at the natural background. And I would say, look, ask the Navajo nation, ask the Hopi people, all the northern Arizona tribes are supportive of protecting these lands from uranium mining, a lot of that has to do with their experience with it, and the concerns -- once these areas are contaminated, there's no way to clean it up. We ask the department of environmental quality when they were permitting some of these mines with general permits, what happens if they're contaminated? Is there a way to clean it up? And the answer is no.

Ted Simons: Is it worth it, with so many millions upon millions of people depending upon this water, you're so close to a national treasure, a world treasure, if you will, at the Grand Canyon, if there is any threat whatsoever, is it worth going ahead with new claims?

Pam Hill: There is absolutely no proof, and for Sandy to compare the legacy mining that went on the Navajo reservation and elsewhere in northern Arizona to Monday mining is a specious argument, it’s disingenuous. It's like comparing apples with oranges. The new Monday techniques are so far advanced, and you're talking about a time on the Navarro reservation in the mid 20th century, 1940s, '50s, and '60s when the atomic energy commission controlled uranium mining, and if they -- if the AEC were aware of any health harm that might come from uranium mining, they certainly didn't let anybody know.

Teds Simons: Back to the original question. With modern mining techniques, if we've moved that far ahead, is it still worth it to mine this particular area?

Sandy Bahr: No.

Pam Hill: As I said before, in the Grand Canyon, the nearest mine is 10 miles away from the rim of the Grand Canyon, and six miles from the park boundary.

Sandy Bahr: There are mining claims much closer than that, and I would say, why hasn't the Kanab north mine been cleaned up, for example? And that's one of the areas where there were very elevated levels of dissolved uranium. So I think that the bottom line is, we're supposed to trust them relative to one of our national treasures, relative to a watershed that is important, relative to the Colorado river, which provides drinking water for millions. This is an area that is an economic engine, tourism is the biggest industry up there, it has actually been recession proof -- .

Ted Simons: It's interesting you mention an economic engine. Folks who want to open up new claims, they're saying the moratorium is a job killer, you have an opportunity for a lot of industry, jobs, local jobs, some say not necessarily local, but still, they see this as an economic --

Sandy Bahr: Threatening the Grand Canyon is a job-killer. Because tourism, again, about $687 million annually for northern Arizona, that's a huge amount of money, most of the jobs in northern Arizona are connected to tourism, and again, last year where you were seeing a downturn everywhere, the tourism in northern Arizona was stable. And a lot of it has to do with the Grand Canyon.

Pam Hill: Let's talk about economics and tourism in northern Arizona and southern Utah. You're talking about a region of Arizona and a part of Utah that has 11 to 17% unemployment. Sure, tourism is vital to their economy, but tourism only provides an average wage of $1300 a month, and it's seasonal. They work -- the folks up there work six months out of the year and work with tourism. And they need some kind of stable job source so that their kids don't have to leave and come to Phoenix or Las Vegas or Salt Lake and get jobs.

Sandy Bahr: Stable is not two to three years, and that's why the city of Flagstaff and Coconino county, northern Arizona tribes, hundreds of businesses, conservation interests, hunters, anglers, everyone in Arizona that has really looked at this issue seriously is supporting protection of this area. Because it makes sense for the economy and it makes sense for our future.

Ted Simons: Last question, very quickly, mines apparently according to our other guests, away from people, away from sensitive areas, they're safe, they're modern, those folks need these well-paying, good-paying jobs up there. Bottom line, why is this a bad idea?

Sandy Bahr: It's a bad idea because it is a threat to something that is much more important to our economy and much longer term than jobs that may last two or three years. The Grand Canyon is going to be around for a long time, and we need to protect it.

Ted Simons: Very quickly, why even consider anything that could possibly threaten the Grand Canyon?

Pam Hill: This will not; it has not and will not harm the Grand Canyon. We have a great track record there, and these -- this is a wonderful resource. This is the second largest uranium resource in this country at a time when the president is turning back to more nuclear power.

Ted Simons: We have to stop it right there. Good discussion. Thank you both for joining us.