Yesterday, news regarding the Cubs' proposed new spring training complex was made by four other Cactus League teams -- the Dodgers, White Sox, Reds and Angels, whose representatives boycotted what was supposed to be a friendly Cactus League welcome breakfast. Notwithstanding the fact that all of these teams have received public money to build spring training complexes -- twice, in the case of Jerry Reinsdorf's White Sox -- to me, this isn't the way to try to negotiate a deal.
It may be that the ticket surcharge on all Cactus League tickets, which is what these teams are protesting, may not be the best vehicle to help fund the facility. Or it might turn out to work for everyone. But the bottom line in these situations is this: instead of being petulant children (as Arizona state Rep. John McComish said in the linked article above, and yes, I'm looking at you, Jerry Reinsdorf) and boycotting an event that had nothing to do with the political discussion, sit down and talk about it.
Which is what I had another chance to do recently with Mesa mayor Scott Smith, who is helping spearhead the drive to build the Cubs' new spring complex. My interview with Mayor Smith is after the jump.
BCB: There's been a lot of information and apparent misinformation out there about the proposed financing for the new spring training complex. Can you set the record straight about who's paying for what, how the money is going to be raised, and what the timetable is.
SS: The proposal that is currently at the legislature utilizes the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority mechanism to fund a new Cubs stadium. AZSTA is the same mechanism used to finance new or remodeled spring training facilities in Phoenix, Glendale, Goodyear, Tempe, Scottsdale, and Surprise. In fact, AZSTA has paid or committed over $200 million to facilities in these six cities that are used by nine teams. As currently proposed, money raised from a $1.00 per contract rental car fee and about a $1.00 per ticket charge on Cactus League tickets would go into a fund set aside to pay for spring training facilities in any Cactus League city. Mesa would use this fund to help pay for a portion of a new Cubs facilitiy, but other cities could also apply to AZSTA to use this fund for facilities in their cities, too.
BCB: What is your response to those who say the proposed ticket surcharge is unfair?
SS: The ticket surcharge asks people who benefit from and use publicly financed spring training facilities to help pay for the renovation and replacement of spring training facilities. I am puzzled how, in today's financial world, asking those who use facilities to bear a small portion of replacing those facilities is unfair. It appears those who are complaining the loudest are the ones who have benefitted the most from taxpayer funded stadiums.
BCB: I know the Ricketts were recently at the kickoff to spring training and looking again at some of the proposed sites. Has anything been decided about the location yet? What are the criteria?
SS: The Cubs are in active negotiations with the owners of several sites in both Northeast and Southeast Mesa. Any of the sites currently under consideration would work for both the City of Mesa and the Cubs. The sites would work well for a Wrigleyville West commercial development, and offer easy freeway access, great views, and plenty of land.
BCB: What is the current timetable? Have the Cubs officially opted out of the current agreement?
SS: We are in Stage Two of a three-stage process. Stage One was completed when Mesa and the Cubs approved the Memorandum of Understanding outlining the terms of a deal. Stage Two is to have a financing mechanism approved at the Arizona Legislature. This must be completed by July. Stage Three will be an election in November of this year in which Mesa voters will vote on a Cubs deal. The City and the Cubs will continue to operate under the terms of the current lease agreement for HoHoKam and Fitch until these stages are played out.
BCB: Are the Cubs going to run the operation themselves, have the HoHoKams run it, or a combination?
SS: The Cubs will be responsible for operating and maintaining a new stadium if it is built. The role of the HoHoKams has not yet been determined. The Ricketts will experience their first spring training as Cubs owners this year, and will get to see first hand the HoHoKams in action. The HoHoKams are part of what makes Cubs spring training special, and I can't imagine a new stadium without them being part of it. The extent of that involvement will be determined by the Cubs and the HoHoKams.
BCB: Is there anything else you'd like to say about this issue that hasn't been covered in the other questions?
SS: I'd like to thank all those Cubs fans who have supported our efforts to keep the team in Mesa so far. We need your continuing support to make this happen! I must admit that I have been surprised by how jealous many of the other teams are of the Cubs and their passionate fans. Please help us by signing petitions, writing letters to legislators, newspapers, blogs, etc. to show everybody just how committed Cubs fans are. You'll see information at Cubs games at HoHoKam. Go Cubs!