Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Source: Cubs to decide on spring site
By Bruce Levine
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Chicago Cubs have received what they believe are the final proposals from Mesa, Ariz., and Naples, Fla., for a new spring training facility, and the team is expected to pick a site by the end of next week, according to a source close to negotiations.
"We're hopeful of making a choice in the very near future," Cubs president Crane Kenney said Wednesday.
Kenney met with the city manager and city attorneys of Mesa on Wednesday to discuss two sites in East Mesa.
The Cubs are seeking an $80 million state-of-the-art spring training facility, according to a source familiar with the negotiations. The team also wants a Wrigleyville atmosphere around the park that features new restaurants, hotels, bars and retail outlets.
The team is looking for a stadium with a capacity between 15,000-18,000, making it the largest spring training park.
Passing legislation in order to get funding is part of the equation. In Florida, money would come from the county tourist development center in a process that could take 45-90 days for approval.
In Arizona, the state and county would need to pass referendums in order to come up with enough money to make this $80 million proposal work. That time frame could be anywhere from 4-6 months.
The Cubs hired developers who are looking at sites in both states to help those involved make a final decision on the most desirable location.
Kenney met with Florida representatives recently to discuss the same parameters of the deal that he discussed Wednesday with Mesa's city managers.
After picking a site, the Cubs will ask the second choice to stand by and keep its offer viable in case their first choice isn't able to secure funding.
Ownership is hopeful to be able to move into a new facility by 2012 or '13. The Cubs are allowed to escape their present deal with Mesa after 2011.
The Cubs first trained in Mesa in 1952 and have been there almost every spring since. As the top draw in the Cactus League, they routinely attract overflow crowds at 12,623-seat HoHoKam Park. And the Cubs averaged over 12,000 fans on the road. The closest Cactus League team to that road attendance figure was the Milwaukee Brewers, who averaged over 8,500.
The Cubs infusion of $50 million to $60 million into the Phoenix/Mesa area may help their cause with legislators.
Kenney said the team's long history in the desert will be a factor in the decision.
"We have 57 years here, I think, interrupted by only one season where we played in California," he said. "It is very important. In a lot of ways, tradition is what the Cubs organization is about. So it's a very important factor, and I think that will weigh into the equation as the Ricketts consider everything."
The Ricketts family bought the Cubs last year.
Kenney said Naples' location and business climate make it a viable option.
"Naples hasn't had spring training baseball," he said. "It's obviously a very strong -- from an economic standpoint -- affluent market, an attractive market if you're talking about business development. Its proximity to the Dominican Republic and Cuba and everything else that's happening, is also a feature that's important."
Information from the Associated Press contributed to this report.