Council’s OK clears hurdle for Cubs to stay
Garin Groff, Tribune
January 25, 2010 – 6:49PM , updated: January 25, 2010 – 7:49PM
Mesa is awaiting word at any hour that the Chicago Cubs will call Arizona their winter home for 25 more years.
The City Council approved its end of a deal Monday evening to build a new spring training complex, dubbed “Wrigleyville West.”
The team has told Mesa that it would respond to Mesa’s offer very quickly after Monday’s action. That’s been widely interpreted as a sign the team will stay in Mesa and not take an offer from developers for a complex near Naples, Fla.
All signs point to Mesa as Cubs choice
Legislation in works to keep Cubs in Mesa
New Cubs facilities a win-win for team, Mesa
PDF: Memorandum of understanding between Mesa and Cubs
Several Mesa residents blasted the council Monday for spending money on a stadium, noting voters defeated plans for a new Arizona Cardinals stadium here. Some speakers at Monday’s meeting likened a taxpayer-funded stadium to the Wall Street bailout. But Gary Sievers urged city support, singing “Go Cubs Go” with new lyrics “Stay Cubs Stay.”
“Mesa has no baseball rain,” he sang, “Naples is one big hurricane.”
Mayor Scott Smith rebutted critics by saying the entire point of the new complex is boosting the economy by surrounding the site with businesses that generate jobs and tax revenue that’s now going to other cities.
“I look at this as economic preservation,” Smith said.
Should the team say “yes” to Mesa, it would agree to exclusive negotiations with the city while the two spend about one year working on a formal agreement to build a complex that the Cubs have sought for nearly a year.
The complex would rival new ones in the West Valley, allowing the city and the Cubs to make more money from surrounding shops, hotels and restaurants.
The complex is key to the Ricketts family, which bought the team three months ago with promises of winning a World Series by providing world-class facilities for the players and fans.
Mesa is banking on other benefits.
The city hopes it can get another team to Mesa, at the Hohokam and Fitch Park facilities the Cubs have used for decades. Those places don’t fully meet the needs of the Cubs, the biggest draw in the Cactus League, but city officials say teams with smaller fan bases would likely find them attractive.
Part of Mesa’s deal with the Cubs requires that the team will help attract another team here.
The team has narrowed its new home to one of two sites along the Loop 202 freeway in east Mesa. The 100-acre-plus complex would cost about $84 million and include a stadium of 13,000-15,000 seats, practice fields and commercial development.
The deal came together with the help of state elected officials, who feared losing the Cactus League’s most popular team.
The Cubs’ presence generates $52 million a year, money many surrounding cities share through hotel stays and tourism activities.
Mesa is confident two key future actions will fall into place. The Arizona Legislature must approve a bill for tourism taxes to fund part of the complex, and Mesa voters must approve two ballot measures. A vote is likely in November.
Tourism taxes and money from the Cubs would fund part of the facilities. City money would fund part of the project that would be used by the team during spring training but open to the public the rest of the year.
13,500 to 15,000 seats
50,000-square-foot clubhouse, with state-of-the-art training/office/meeting facilities
At least two major-league-sized practice fields
At least one practice infield
At least 16 batting tunnels
At least 16 pitching mounds
Temporary living spaces
Four full-sized practice fields
Major league-quality lighting
Complex would be on at least 100 acres; site unknown
Up to 4,000 parking spaces (up to 3,500 provided by Mesa)
Mesa owns stadium
Cubs control facility operations and development of “Wrigleyville West” commercial village
Cubs get exclusive naming rights and advertising revenue
State and city bonds; amounts and terms not disclosed
State legislation — this session
Citywide bond election — expected in November