The Cubs have been training in Mesa for 50 years, but new team ownership informed the city it would be exercising its option to walk away from a HoHoKam Park lease should a new spring-training facility not be forthcoming. Since then Mesa and the Cubs agreed to an exclusive negotiating period that saw plenty of drama throughout the Cactus League. To help Mesa pay for a facility, state officials proposed a Cactus League ticket surcharge; MLB and other teams screamed bloody murder, and the idea was dropped.
Of late, it's become very apparent no funding from the state or the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority is on the horizon. Mesa officials are up against the wall: the Cubs make definitely impact on local spending whether it's snowbirds or March visitors (sales-tax receipts spike in December and March, officials say), but the exclusive negotiating period between the team and the city ends July 12. With Florida interests saying they can make a Naples-area complex work, Mesa needed to act.
To help pay for the complex, the city is borrow against 11,000 acres of farmland in Pinal County. The land was acquired for water rights, but concern over water has diminished in recent years.
Under the current plan -- which has engendered much enthusiasm among Cubs ownership, we're told -- Mesa would finance $84 million of the project cost, an expenditure with a hard cap. The Cubs would kick in $5 million and maintain development rights to a Wrigleyville West, complete with hotels, restaurants and retail. An opening of 2013 is planned.