10/25 Cubs look at Naples sites
Could the Cubs move their Spring Training site to Florida? A Naples, Fla., newspaper reports a group was formed four months ago for the purpose of making Collier County the Spring Training home of the Cubs. The Florida group has met with Cubs chairman Crane Kenney and Tom Ricketts, whose family is taking over as the team’s owner.
“The Chicago Cubs are exploring Naples, Fla., as a potential Spring Training venue and have been working with Chicago-based Esmark and Naples-based Fifth Avenue Advisors in that regard,” Kenney confirmed in a statement to the Naples (Fla.) Daily News. “Our site visits and discussions confirm that Collier County has a number of suitable locations for a world-class Spring Training facility.”
Cubs officials toured the area by helicopter to see what locations may be suitable. Craig Bouchard, who is a co-founder of Esmark Inc., said it was clear after their meeting that Ricketts and Kenney’s “objective is to do what is best for Cubs fans. They want to win a World Series. And they want to build the very best organization they can.”
The Cubs are believed to be looking for 120 contiguous acres. The Sports Management Division of Esmark is a principal sponsor of the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Bouchards are principal owners of the Naples Tennis Club. Craig Bouchard, is a Cubs fan, and was an official with First National Bank of Chicago. He still has a home in the Chicago area.
The price tag for the venture could exceed $80 million, the newspaper reported. Bouchard said they are pursuing every avenue, public and private, to finance the project and not raise property or sales taxes of the residents of Collier County.
“I committed to Crane that Esmark will invest and take a leadership role in the stadium project,” Bouchard said.
The Cubs’ 25-year lease with the city of Mesa expires in 2016. The team has an escape clause, which allows the Cubs to pay $4.2 million to the city next spring in order to leave Mesa in 2012. Recent studies have shown that the Cubs bring in more than $52 million to Arizona, and more than $30 million to the city of Mesa.
The Cubs have called Mesa their Spring Training home since the 1950s, and permanent home since 1979.
“We are still a long shot,” Bouchard said of Naples as a site for the Cubs, “but I agree with the mayor of Mesa that we are a serious threat. We offer an outstanding destination for families, award-winning beaches and a belief we can put together a proposal that is favored by the Cubs. Sometimes, long shots win.”
Collier County has never had a Spring Training team. The Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins play nearby in Fort Myers.
Ricketts was expected to tour four sites in Mesa in November during the Cubs’ organizational meetings.
— Carrie Muskat