1/9/10 Mesa update
Here’s information from a story in Saturday’s Arizona Republic:
Mesa leaders are drafting a bill to be introduced in the state legislature to finance a new Cubs Spring Training complex if the team decides to stay in Arizona. The Cubs are expected to announce this month if they will remain in Arizona or move their spring HQ to Florida.
The Arizona Republic reported that the bill would build on the present model used to finance new spring facilities in the state in the past decade by raising tourism-related fees. The Cubs are looking at sites in east Mesa.
There’s a reason Arizona and Florida are fighting for the Cubs. A study concluded the team is worth $52 million a year to Arizona in tourism revenue. The Cubs can opt out of their contract with Mesa this spring and leave as early as 2012 after paying $4.2 million.
“I’m confident we’re not going to whiff,” Mesa Mayor Scott Smith told the newspaper.
He said Arizona cannot afford to lose the Cubs in the middle of the recession and building a new complex to keep the team is a good investment.
“If we lose the Cubs, it will only make the situation worse. We would lose tens of millions of dollars from the economy when we need it the most,” Smith said.
Although the bill’s details are still being negotiated, officials have discussed imposing a league-wide ticket surcharge and possibly increasing the rental car tax in Maricopa County, already among the highest in the nation.
The money would be funneled to Mesa through the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority, which has financed new stadiums since 2001. All of its funding is committed for existing ballparks through 2031. Mesa is promised $8.2 million in 2020, far short of a new complex’s price tag.
“We need to come up with a solution that will take care of the Cubs without tapping into general fund money,” Smith said. The first priority would be financing the new Cubs facility, with any additional revenue paying for renovations at other Cactus League parks.
Mesa and most other Cactus League venues already impose a ticket surcharge to recoup some of their operating costs. The proposed league-wide surcharge would be in addition to city surcharges.
First, the Cubs have to pick Mesa over Naples. Then, the legislature has to approve the funding bill. Third, Smith said, Mesa voters would have to approve the expenditure of city revenues in November. A new complex would cost at least $80 million. The majority of the money would come from the Tourism and Sports Authority, but Smith said there also would be a “substantial” investment by private sources.
— Carrie Muskat