1/15/10 Spring Training update

Mesa officials traditionally have a booth at the Cubs Convention to provide information for fans who want to go to Arizona for Spring Training. It’ll be interesting to see the response at this weekend’s event — and if the Naples, Fla., contingent stops by.

A decision on where the Cubs will move their Spring Training headquarters was expected next week, and it seems everyone is jumping into the prediction business. A USA Today writer posted a message on Twitter that “The Cubs likely will leave Mesa, AZ, for Naples, Fla., for Spring Training barring the state of AZ coming up with unforeseen money.”

Gary Price, partner in Fifth Avenue Advisors, which is working with Chicago-based Esmark, Inc., to bring the Cubs to Collier County, told the Naples Daily News on Thursday that he had not heard anything from the team.

“Nothing has happened,” Price told the newspaper on Thursday. “And I have no date for when anything is going to happen. Pretty soon they are going to get together but I don’t know when they are going to make a final decision or public announcement. We have delivered everything to them to make the decision but I don’t have any control or insight. [Team president Crane Kenney] hasn’t told me anything.”

Price said he feels the decision will come down to what the Ricketts family wants for the future of the Cubs.

“The beautiful thing is [each community] has equal strengths and equal hurdles,” Price said. “Each of us has strengths and significant hurdles to overcome but I believe the decision is going to be based on where the future is and at some point that’s what the family is going to have to figure out.”

The Florida group has released copies of 18 letters, including ones from Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, the Economic Development Council of Collier County, and the Collier County Hotel and Lodging Association supporting the Cubs’ move to Collier County. The letters have been delivered to the Cubs.

“I believe these letters are critical to our effort,” said Craig Bouchard, vice chairman of Esmark. “They are from very important business organizations as well as from [politicians] in our state. It was humbling to receive such a strong show of support.”

Once the Cubs pick a state, the winning group would have 120 days to secure funding.

Bouchard and others from Naples were expected to attend the sold out weekend Cubs Convention, which begins Friday at the Chicago Hilton.

— Carrie Muskat

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