Ten days ago, I wrote that the Cubs were nearly certain to be staying in Mesa for spring training, most likely at a new complex to be built somewhere else in the city because the current Ho Ho Kam Park/Fitch Park sites aren't suitable for having an all-in-one complex with minor league, practice and major league fields in the same location.
Today, Gordon Wittenmyer confirms this in the Sun-Times:
While a Collier County, Fla., group may well be serious in its effort to lure the Cubs away from Mesa, Ariz., the chances of the Cubs leaving the greater Phoenix area in the foreseeable future appear to be slim to none, based on the logistical headaches already driving major league teams away from Florida, the Cubs' centerpiece position in Arizona's Cactus League and common sense.
Let's look at all three of those things; first, here are Mesa Mayor Scott Smith's comments on the Cubs' place in the Cactus League:
"We view this as a regional issue, not simply Mesa," Smith said. "We've got support across the board, from city officials, regional officials and state officials. Obviously, we have to make sure we do what we need to do to successfully keep the Cubs.Smith realizes that it would likely cost Mesa -- and the region -- more money if the Cubs left, than it would cost to keep them there for decades to come. Wittenmyer examines the Florida possibility:
"I'm confident we'll be able to come up with a package that will be very difficult for them to turn down. It's all here. They have the best chance to succeed here, and Arizona will give its best to provide them with that opportunity."
The Florida group has proposed a 120-acre facility to include a replicated Wrigley Field for the ballpark.
But working against any Florida bid is the lengthy spring travel in that state -- especially in a location nearly three hours from the Tampa area -- and a decadelong exodus of teams from Florida that will put 15 of 30 big-league teams in Arizona next spring for the first time.
And not only will 15 of the 30 teams be in Arizona beginning in 2010, but in 2011, all 15 of them will be in the Phoenix metro area, after the Diamondbacks and Rockies move to this snazzy complex just east of Scottsdale on Indian tribal land. All 15 teams will be within 45 minutes to an hour's drive from each other -- here is a map of the Arizona spring training locations. (Yes, I realize that's a link to a ticket broker site, but it was the only one I could find that had accurate maps showing all the sites.)
Compare that to this map of the Florida spring training sites (from the same ticket broker site). The group trying to lure the Cubs to Florida would place them in Collier County -- that's where Naples is. The closest spring training park to Naples is the Red Sox' City of Palms Park in Ft. Myers -- that's 35 miles and nearly an hour's drive. The rest of the spring parks on the Gulf Coast are... farther away.
Finally, the spring weather in Arizona is warmer and consistently better than it is in Florida. I have been to spring training in Arizona 20 times, and in all that time seen only three rainouts -- most days, it's 80-85 degrees, with unlimited sunshine and low humidity. Granted, the dry weather and altitude (about 1500 feet, compared to sea level in Florida) makes the Cactus League a hitters' league, but that's something well known to managers and coaches and they adjust accordingly. The last word here goes to Mayor Smith:
"We have several viable sites, and several groups that will work to make this happen," Smith said, noting the Cubs already are playing in their third stadium in Mesa. "We've been there before. We've made it happen here, and one thing Arizona brings as a region is we're committed to making spring training work. And the Cubs are the foundation of that, right in the middle of what we do."