Cubs owner Tom Ricketts and team president Crane Kinney will be in Naples tomorrow to discuss spring-training facilities with Collier County officials, according to the Fort Myers News-Press.
Colliers County contains Naples, one of the more demographically desirable areas in Florida. The team has been working with Chicago-based Esmark on a proposed privately financed development that would feature a new ballpark, six practice fields and a mixed-use development featuring housing, hotels and restaurants. Given the economic climate, finding private financing for what should be a $75-$100-million development will be a struggle; if Esmark and the Cubs proceed, we'd expect to have some sort of plea for public subsidy.
This isn't to say any sort of deal is imminent. In fact, we suspect a whole lot more is being made out of the visit than is warranted. Our friends with the Cubs still say they'd be stunned if the team left Mesa; there's a high level of familiarity there, with players, coaches and front-office personnel wintering there, and many fans have invested in winter homes in the area. Plus, the Cubs have a pretty sweet setup when it comes to travel: in 2011 all 15 Cactus League teams will be in the Phoenix area, which means the farthest the Cubs will need to travel is Surprise. By contrast, Naples would be the southernmost spring-training outpost in the Grapefruit League, making for some long road trips to Sarasota, Tampa and St. Lucie.
And, of course, we're still waiting for Mesa to weigh in with that city's proposal as well.