White Sox And Diamondbacks Complain About Cubs Spring Training Deal. Here's The Truth.

Courtesy Mesa Convention and Visitors Bureau

Here's what is really going on with the Cubs' new spring training complex.

Within the last few days, we've been treated to comments from White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall, grumbling about the deal that the Cubs and the city of Mesa have made for a new spring training complex:

Reinsdorf told the Phoenix Business Journal the Sox were opposed to a plan to institute a surcharge on all Cactus League tickets to help fund the Cubs' proposed $84 million spring training complex in Mesa.

Remember, Reinsdorf threatened to move his team to Florida if he didn't get the state of Illinois to build him a new stadium in Chicago -- which the team occupies virtually rent-free -- and further, says Mesa Mayor Scott Smith:

"We're not affecting the current revenue streams" for other Cactus League teams, Smith said. He leveled a broadside at Reinsdorf, whose team practiced for years in Tucson Electric Park before leaving last year to join the Los Angeles Dodgers in a new sports authority-funded complex in the Valley.

"Is this the same Jerry Reinsdorf that skipped out on Pima County taxpayers who had spent tens of millions of dollars to provide him with a taxpayer-funded stadium, to come to Glendale, where Maricopa County taxpayers provided him a Taj Mahal spring-training facility?" Smith said.

Meanwhile, Derrick Hall says "all 13 other Cactus League teams back him" and the Cubs shouldn't use public money:

Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall says that a new field for the Cubs should be funded through private funds, the same way the new stadiums for the Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies was funded. 

Right, Derrick, except for the $30 million of federal stimulus money being used by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community to help build your new spring training facility. That's public money, isn't it, Derrick? These funds are characterized as a loan, but it's still taxpayer dollars and the complex likely doesn't get built without it. Further, since this complex is located on tribal land, the Diamondbacks (and Rockies) would likely be exempt from any ticket surcharge -- which, in any case, is likely to be less than $1 (one estimate has it at 75 cents -- hardly a deal-breaker for anyone coming to a Cactus League game).

This East Valley Tribune article reminds us that the truth is that nothing is set in stone yet; there may be a surcharge placed on Cactus League tickets, but if so, there's some justification -- according to one study, Cubs fans account for 22% of Cactus League attendance -- and if not, the East Valley Tribune link goes on to say:
As officials announced Friday they will introduce legislation on Monday to provide part of the funding, they acknowledged they haven’t settled on tax rates or certain funding formulas.

"Exactly what those will be is yet to be determined," said House Majority Leader John McComish, R-Ahwatukee Foothills.

McComish will sponsor the bill, which he said will be written with several blank lines where the key financial details will later be filled in. Lawmakers still need to figure out how much money will come from a car-rental tax and from a ticket surcharge on Cactus League games.

Because of resistance from some that people across Maricopa County would pay for a Mesa facility, some lawmakers want the taxes to raise additional money for improvements to other spring training complexes in the Valley. Lawmakers are talking with tourism industry and baseball officials to see what they would or would not support before they set tax rates in the bill, he said.

Under the current tax structure to pay for spring training facilities, all Cactus League teams benefit -- including the White Sox, who used a portion of this tax to help finance Camelback Ranch. There is currently $12 million in the fund earmarked for improvements to HoHoKam Park, which may not occur until and unless another team moves into the facility once it is vacated by the Cubs (there are already exploratory talks underway with several teams, including the Twins). The money raised by the additional rental car taxes and ticket surcharges would go to this fund, not exclusively to the Cubs.

The bottom line here, then, is that Reinsdorf and Hall are just blustering and posturing -- Reinsdorf, apparently, taking the lead from his manager and general manager, who will stop at nothing to diss the Cubs, and Hall, likely taking the lead from his fanbase, who are still, apparently, unforgiving of Cubs fans for filling their park during the 2007 NLDS (geez, wasn't winning the series enough revenge?). Here's a take from our SBN Diamondbacks site which is, unfortunately, filled with comments on the old you-haven't-won-in-a-century thing that, you know, we've never heard less than 1,375,359,311 times before, as well as some misinformation. Jim, you're a good guy and I've enjoyed meeting you and the lovely Mrs. Snakepit, but that post -- well, read this one for the truth.

Finally, when this topic was posted in a FanShot on Saturday, the discussion devolved into pointless namecalling, so much so that I had to close comments. Please keep the discussion civil on this issue (and everything else here, for that matter). Thanks.

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