What's Next For Cubs Spring Training In Mesa?

USA TODAY Sports

With deadlines approaching, Mesa needs to get a deal made to keep the Cubs in Arizona for spring training.

Yesterday, this FanShot was posted with a link to an article about the Arizona legislature adjourning its session without taking any action on any legislation to keep the Cubs in that state for spring training.

A couple of important points, then some information on what's going to happen next.

First, for anyone who thinks this doesn't matter because "it's only six weeks of practice and games that don't count", that is simply false. The Cubs' facilities in Arizona are a nearly year-round operation that includes hosting extended spring training, rehab facilities for players recovering from injury, a rookie league that plays 56 games over two months in the summer, and the Arizona Fall League in October and November. It does matter, and with many teams in the Cactus League receiving either new or renovated facilities since HoHoKam Park was built in 1997, the Cubs are looking to improve theirs. The major league spring park, only 13 years old, is still in good shape, but the minor league facilities are where the team needs upgrades.

Second, we have argued over and over here about the Cubs' impact on the Cactus League. No matter the actual numbers, which have been reported differently by different sources, there is no question that the Cubs bring a large number of tourist dollars into Arizona every spring. This article from the East Valley Tribune gives more details, and concludes:

Councilman Dennis Kavanaugh said Mesa’s efforts are hurt by not having legislation. But even if Mesa can’t meet the deadline, he is encouraged that Selig has pushed to keep the Cubs in Arizona and that the Ricketts have attended their first spring training here.

"They see the support from the Valley, from the city in terms of how we treat them, in terms of how we treat their fans, and I think that’s gone a long way to create a positive atmosphere for ongoing positive discussions," Kavanaugh said. "I don't think anybody has a feeling that they want to walk away from the discussions at all."

In the 1990's, after the Cactus League had shrunk to eight teams with the departure of the Indians to Florida (they have since returned), then Arizona Governor Rose Mofford created a commission to make sure other teams didn't leave the state and to also try to lure other teams to move west.

It was a great success, as the Royals, Rangers, Dodgers, and Reds (in addition to the Indians returning) moved from Florida to Arizona. Obviously, economic conditions are different now than they were in the past decade, and the state of Arizona is in, as the East Valley Tribune link points out, "the worst budget crisis in state history".

The current governor, Jan Brewer, is likely to create a similar commission which would include the local (Mesa) and state tourism industry, representatives from the commissioner's office, and the Cubs, to come up with a solution that will be fair for everyone involved -- the city of Mesa, state of Arizona, the Cubs, and the other 14 teams in the Cactus League. From what I understand, everything that's been discussed in this months-long effort will be on the table, including bed taxes, rental car taxes, a TIF district (which would be a first for Arizona), and even a ticket surcharge -- but if approved, this surcharge would be one that would benefit only the other 14 Cactus League teams, not the Cubs. Further, as noted in the East Valley Tribune link above, an extension of the July 12 deadline seems likely. I'm no Bud Selig fan, but in this case I agree with him -- he's gone on record as saying he wants the Cubs to remain in Arizona.

For all the reasons I've written many times before, the Cubs belong in Arizona and Mesa for spring training, and a facility commensurate with places like the ones in Surprise and Glendale. I believe it'll get done.

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