Spring training changes?

November, 5, 2009
11/05/09
10:34
PM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
Archive

For anyone who thought the Cubs would never move their spring training headquarters away from Arizona, you might want to rethink that again before making that statement.

The sites that the Ricketts family have looked at in Naples, Fla., are being supported by every politician, including the governor of that state, in their attempts to lure the Cubs spring training home to Florida.

The Ricketts family concluded their stay in Arizona on Thursday after having a whirlwind day on Wednesday, meeting with 15 different politicians, including the mayor of Mesa. The family also visited four sites in the greater Phoenix/Mesa area by helicopter. It appears the family's best option will be a parcel of land in East Mesa or one of a couple sites in Naples, Fla.

Part of the Cubs' overall plan is to build a "Wrigley Field South" or a "Wrigley Field West," which would include the best of the atmosphere of Wrigleyville and a state-of-the-art baseball complex and an entertainment area. The Ricketts family is set on giving the Cubs fans the best spring training experience in baseball. A replica-style ballpark like Wrigley Field is part of the plan. Also a part of the long-range view is to be able to incorporate some of the characteristics of Wrigleyville in the experience. The ballpark itself would seat somewhere between 15,000 to 18,000 people, making it the largest capacity of any spring training facility.

The vision of the Cubs is to have a walking community around the complex, where Cubs fans could get off the plane, drive to the complex and have all of the hotels, restaurants and bars accessible within a few blocks of the ballpark itself.

Tom Ricketts, the CEO of the Cubs, had never been to the state of Arizona before touring the Cubs baseball operations in Mesa during the team's organization meeting this week. That being said, the Ricketts family, known as smart business people, have no ties to Arizona or the fact that the team has had spring training in either Mesa or Scottdale since 1952.

The new owners could be thinking about making a new start and building a new tradition by moving spring training to Florida. Logistically, Florida creates some major problems in travel for the team. The Red Sox and Twins are within 15 minutes of the Naples area, but the rest of the Grapefruit League ballparks are anywhere from one hour to two-and-a-half hours away, creating a problem for both major and minor league players traveling to play away games.

Regardless of whether the Cubs stay in Arizona or move to Florida, they will end up with the best state-of-the-art complex in sports for their fans during the spring training month.

Bruce Levine | email

Chicago baseball beat reporter
Bruce Levine has covered sports in Chicago for over 28 years and hosts "Talkin' Baseball," heard Saturday mornings on ESPN 1000.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
John Danks
WINS ERA SO IP
8 3.99 83 119
OTHER LEADERS
BAJ. Abreu .292
HRJ. Abreu 29
RBIJ. Abreu 73
RJ. Abreu 49
OPSJ. Abreu .972
ERAC. Sale 2.08
SOJ. Quintana 107