Keeping the Chicago Cubs in Mesa

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Mesa Mayor Scott Smith discusses efforts to keep the Cubs’ spring training home in Mesa, AZ.

Ted Simons: The Chicago cubs are giving mesa one year to secure funding to build a new spring training complex. If that happens, the club says it'll keep its spring training center in Arizona. The announcement came yesterday during a press conference at the state capitol.

Ted Simons: On behalf of the family and the Chicago cubs we're very excited to say that we have reached an understanding with the city of mesa that will give us a framework to go forward to work on keeping the cubs in Arizona and the cactus league. [Applause]

Ted Simons: And joining me now is Mesa mayor Scott Smith. Good to see you again. Thanks for joining us.

Scott Smith: Great to be here.

Ted Simons: The deal is one year exclusive talks.

Scott Smith: It's about like that. We have some milestones that we have to achieve and that will take about to the end of the year.

Ted Simons: As far as a deal is concerned, 25-year commitment.

Scott Smith: Minimum 25 years.

Ted Simons: Is there an opt-out clause.

Scott Smith: There is, and that's standard in the industry but the one thing that's different about this, under this proposal, the Chicago cubs will make a substantial investment not only in the stadium with the land but in the area around that. While the deal is for 25 years, if the cubs go through and make the millions of investments, we feel they're there for a long, long time.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about the area around the complex. $84 million or so, this development called Wrigleyville west. Who pays for what?

Scott Smith: We have the stadium and the practice facilities and that will be paid through hopefully tourist -- a combination of tourist taxes and the city of mesa funds and also the private investment. Then outside of the stadium, that's private investment. That will be led by the cubs but all private money. No government or public funds.

Ted Simons: That will include -- what? -- eateries and hotels?

Scott Smith: Hotels, eateries, things that the Chicago cubs, they're passionate fans and brand can come in and enjoy. During spring training and after. It's a concept that goes above anything you've seen.

Ted Simons: Let's start with the legislature. A tourism tax, something along the line of hotels and rental cars needed?

Scott Smith: I don't know exactly how it will play out, but it will be tourist directed. This is the same mechanism that's been used to build stadiums in Glendale, the university of Phoenix. All we're asking is to continue the same mechanism. Whether it's rental cars or hotels, that's decided by the legislative process.

Ted Simons: The city of place action there needs to be -- what? -- two things that need to pass or -- I know a charter is involved with something. But basically is a yes or no, anyway, correct?

Scott Smith: It is a yes or no, and we're looking at the part of the facilities that the mesa will build is the dual use. The practice fields used by the cubs during spring training and off times, used by the public for little league. And we anticipate paying for those with bonds like any other park. And any time we pay over a million and a half dollars, we have to take it to the voters.

Ted Simons: One question, one vote. But got to get that vote. Are you confident? Are you concerned?

Scott Smith: Well, I'm always concerned. But I'm also confident. I think that the citizens of mesa understand this is not one of your pie in the sky type of proposals. This is not an economic development, but an economic retention with some icing on it. Because the cubs bring in literally tens of millions. The most recent study over $100 million the cubs bring in to the economy from out of state. Tens of thousands from out of state. We know how long they stay and what they spend. If the cubs aren't here, they don't come here. They go to Florida and that money is pulled out of our economy every year for the next 20-25 years. But the Wrigleyville west, which is an additional development that will bring people in from out of state, we hope to increase the economic impact that the cubs have on Arizona.

Ted Simons: And yet everyone is going to look back to the cardinal football stadium vote and say mesa doesn't want it bad enough. How do you convince your constituents?

Scott Smith: Like we told them with the gay lord, and the bond election that passed 2-1, it's a good investment in the community. Mesa voters, under estimated. They're savvy. When they see something they believe is a good investment, they support it. When they see something they don't think is a good investment, they won't. I think the citizens of mesa will look at this for what it is. A good investment, even in these bad economic times, it's a time we need to keep investing.

Ted Simons: Let's go back to the legislature. How concerned are you there that the votes are there?

Scott Smith: Once again, I'm always concerned but I'm confident. Because the -- we have good support. The bill is being sponsored and run by house majority John McComish and we have the support of the speaker of the house. We have senators behind it. Everyone understands the importance of the cubs. You know, I know there will be a lot of debate and discussion to how we get there. But on both sides of the aisle, we have strong democratic groups and Republican support. We'll find a solution that will get us there.

Ted Simons: We haven't mentioned where this could be located. A couple of sites?

Scott Smith: A couple of sites. One in the northeast part of the city. Right off the 202 which affords participants and fans -- If you're sitting in the stadium, you have an unobstructed view of the superstition mountains. Either place will provide an experience that fans aren't getting anywhere else.

Ted Simons: How close is mesa to losing the cubs? How serious is the offer in Florida?

Scott Smith: Very serious. We know the proposal given by the Florida group was a substantial proposal. We know that the cubs considered it very, very strongly. There were times when I honestly believed they might be going to Florida and this was not a case of here is Florida's bid. Top it. That was never done to us.we knew that Florida was serious. They had the money and they had political support and the governor threw $15 million on the table and it was serious. The press conference that the Florida group had after the cubs announced mesa, they were confident and arrogant to the point that, listen, the cubs will be back. We don't think Arizona is going to perform. We don't think they understand what they have. They're going to be back. They're confident that the cubs will move to Florida.

Ted Simons: If they keep that kind of language up, they could be your best supporters.

Scott Smith: I think people need to understand this was simply opportunities and Florida was very, very aggressive because they recognize the economic impact.

Ted Simons: What do we look for next in all of this?

Scott Smith: Right now, we passed the first hurdle. The cubs chose mesa and the city has presented their package. The next thing is the legislature. We need them to take action and the bill will be introduced within the next week or so and hopefully within a few weeks, have a bill out of the legislature and work on a final agreement with the cubs that we can present to the mesa voters in November.

Ted Simons: Thank you.

Scott Smith: Thank you very much.

Scott Smith:Mayor of Mesa;

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