Chicago Cubs Spring Training Complex

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Mesa Mayor Scott Smith talks about today’s groundbreaking for a new spring training stadium and complex for the Chicago Cubs that’s scheduled to open in 2014.

Steve Goldstein: Good evening. Welcome to "Arizona horizon." I'm Steve Goldstein for Ted Simons. A groundbreaking ceremony was held this morning for a new $84 million stadium and training facility for the Cubs in mesa. It's hoped it will be ready by the 2014 season. Here's mesa mayor scott smith. Welcome.

Scott Smith: Thanks for having me.

Steve Goldstein: Let's talk about the challenges.

Scott Smith: There were a lot of challenges. This is a three-year project. We were first informed by the Cubs a little over threes years ago that they had a great offer from naples, Florida. There was a lot of money thrown on the table by naples to entice the Cubs to Florida. I had a $65 million deficit and the Cubs going to Florida. Welcome to politics. We hunkered down and worked with the Cubs and we had a lot of hits and misses. There was a time when I absolutely knew from information that they had decided to go, to leave. We asked them for a chance to perform. We went down to the legislature and sort of, you know, threw a - struck out basically, so we came to plan b, to basically finance the stadium ourselves and go to mesa voters to get their approval. So we went to November of 2010 and Mesa Voters overwhelmingly approved this project. It was so great this morning to be at a groundbreaking that really celebrated a community success. Everyone in Mesa was involved in this. We had by almost 2-1 margin voters say we want to invest in our community. We want to continue to have this valuable financial asset, social asset. The Cubs are part of Arizona. They are part of mesa, part of the cactus league. It was a real win not only for our community but for the entire Ccactus League and Phoenix Metro area.

Steve Goldstein: Let's take this back a second. They were that close to moving to Florida?

Scott Smith: That group involved in Florida was substantial. You're talking billionaires that were involved. They had a program and a plan that involved building the Cubs a stadium, presenting it to them and basically paying their way to get out of the mesa area. These were Naples businessman with Chicago roots. This were legitimate, they were real there wasn't one time when my sources in both Chicago and Naples said they're coming. It's done. They had been given the word that Cubs were going. We asked once again, give us one chance. We think 50 years of tradition, 50 years of performing means something. To the Ricketts family, a great family, great owners, they said, you know what? We owe it to Mesa, we owe it to Arizona. They gave us one chance and once again to all the people that were involved and the Citizens of Mesa, we stepped up to the plate and we didn't whiff this time.

Steve Goldstein: Even for non-sportsfans how important have the Cubs been to mesa?

Scott Smith: They help define mesa in many ways. I was shocked when I went around durr the campaign to find how many had Chicago roots in our valley. The phoenix metro area is the number one relocation area for people with Chicago roots. Number 2 was way far behind. There's literally 300,000 plus people who call Chicago home who have moved to the valley. Many to mesa, the vast majority of whom first tasted our valley by coming to Cubs' spring training. They fell in love with Mesa and Arizona. Of course during March, sucker weather, of course… then when they moved here in July and August, they came to work here. They became part of our community but the roots run deep some of the it was important not only financially, the Cubs were a huge financial contributor to our economy, the Cactus League is like having a Super Bowl every year. The tens of thousands of people who come into our valley from the Chicago area every year and leave over well over $100 million in the coffers, they are important financially but also having these spring training teams was important culturally and socially to Mesa.

Steve Goldstein: Talk about the training facilities. They have become almost Taj Mahals to some extent. How much pressure is there to build a stadium that's worthy of your community, that doesn't price out the average person?

Scott Smith: No doubt the bar has been raised when you look at Camelback Ranch, Goodyear, Talking Stick, which is of course the standard bearer. We're not trying to over-reach or over-do those. At some point in time you say here's the standard. Here's what is acceptable. Let's build to that standard. That's what we did when we established the $85 million budget. We didn't look to out do anyone else. We said there's a standard that's set. Let's build it to that standard, make it so the Cubs can have facilities for their players that are on par with anything else that's in major league baseball and also let's have a facility that our fans and citizens will be proud to go to and they can have a great experience. That doesn't mean you have to out do the next guy. But there's no doubt that the bar had been raised. Spring training luckily is still within the reach of the average person. You can go and in this stadium, which will seat almost 15,000, we have 9,000 permanent seats and over 4,000 on the berm. You can throw out a blanket. We have party decks. This is the great thing about spring training. It's not really about the baseball, it's about the gathering of people, about tourism, about people coming in from out of state and enjoying this. This is our beach basically. So we need to invest in those assets.

Steve Goldstein: What excites you most about the new facility?

Scott Smith: The fact that it's not just take baseball stadium. It's not a baseball facility. What we have is the connection of the baseball stadium and the -- also that are connected to by a pasea, to a commercial area we'll call Wrigleyville West where we'll invest in restaurants and themed establishments that are hopefully unique and will bring people in, but also at the end of that for sale there's a riverview park which exists today the city of mesa we are expanding, improving. It's going to be a park that is second to none in the valley. We think the park in and of itself will draw people there. You come there, enjoy the park, stroll down the paseo, enjoy the shops, maybe go to a game. It's a whole experience. And that's unique of all training facilities in the valley.

Steve Goldstein: Is asu's team going to be playing there?

Scott Smith: We hope so. We have been in negotiations for quite a while. There's a couple of hurtles they have to get over. They have a general agreement when you get down to the details sometimes you run into some challenges. We had meetings today. I'm confident we'll figure out a way the Sundevils will share the stadium and positive into a World Class facility and hopefully replicate what uh of a did this year when they moved into High Corbett Field, the spring training facility for the Colorado Rockies. The Wildcats won the college world series. We hope ASU will be in there. We have a couple of things to work out. I'm hoping in the next few of weeks we'll have an agreement.

Steve Goldstein: Mayor Smith finally we've only got a minute left, you have been very busy with another institution of higher learning coming to mesa. Briefly give us an idea of why this is part of your strategy.

Scott Smith: The idea of creating new opportunities in education, of lefting the discussion of higher education, bringing in a complement -- we have a great research university here. ASU is among the elite and is well recognized for having done incredible things. As a research university. We believe that there was a market for nonprofit, private liberal arts colleges and we believed if we could cluster those in downtown mesa we could create the kind of consortium, cluster that would create an energy in concert with ASU Poly and ASU Downtown Tempe, this was a great convention. We're excited about what's happening. We have four colleges now sign up for downtown mesa. We're looking forward to a great future.

Steve Goldstein: Mayor Scott Smith, thanks so much.

Scott Smith: Thank you, Steve.

Scott Smith - Mesa Mayor

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