7/14 Cubs to stay in Mesa

The Cubs’ Spring Training facility will apparently stay in Mesa, Ariz. Team officials have notified the Naples, Fla., group trying to lure the Cubs to the Sunshine State that they will continue exclusive negotiations with Mesa beyond Monday’s deadline. The Cubs and Mesa had established a July 12 deadline in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to have financing in place for the new facility.

On Sunday, Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts told Chicago reporters in Los Angeles that he anticipated the team would continue working with Mesa. Chairman Crane Kenney echoed that sentiment Tuesday in a statement.

“The Cubs are appreciative of the efforts from the Naples team to provide the club with a first-rate Spring Training facility,” Kenney said. “Naples is a world-class city and could undoubtedly provide our organization and fans an exceptional facility and experience.

“Despite the opportunity that exists in Naples, for the time being we will continue our work in Mesa to build a new Spring Training facility there,” Kenney said.

Mesa recently announced a financing plan for an $84 million complex with the money coming from the city, not the state. Initial funds to pay for a new stadium would come from the city’s enterprise fund, according to Mesa Mayor Scott Smith. Those funds would be replenished over a 15- to 20-year period from sales of Mesa’s surplus land holdings in Pinal County.

The Cubs have a board meeting scheduled for Thursday in Chicago.

Mesa voters will be asked in November to approve two measures that could affect the new Spring Training project. One is to raise the city’s bed tax from 3 percent to 5 percent. Mesa voters also must agree if the city is to spend more than $1.5 million on an entertainment or sports venue.

Naples made a strong push for the team, led by Craig Bouchard, an executive with Chicago-based Esmark, Inc.

“In our discussions with the Cubs we asked for them to provide our group with an exclusive negotiating period,” Bouchard said in a statement released Tuesday night. “The Cubs politely declined and will continue to negotiate with Mesa for the time being. We understand the importance of loyalty and wish them well. We also respect 57 years of support from Mesa. Therefore, we have respectfully withdrawn our offer.”

– Carrie Muskat

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