Mesa poised to approve new deal to keep Cubs
The Cubs are saying little for the record, but it appears to be looking better for Mesa, Ariz., in its spring training fight with Florida to keep the Cubs.
The Mesa city council will meet Monday night, and it's expected to approve a new, larger site for the Cubs' spring-training home.
The Cubs issued a statement saying: "The Cubs are interested in reading through Mesa's proposal and having our board (of directors) take it under review."
Cubs sources say no commitments have been made and that the Ricketts family, the new owners of the team, must go over the proposal.
In Mesa, there is cautious optimism after the city faced the possibility of losing the biggest draw of the Cactus League to Naples, Fla.
"I think we're getting close to the end," Mesa City Manager Chris Brady said Thursday in a telephone interview with the Daily Herald. "We sent a copy (of the proposal) to the Cubs as of (Wednesday), and they said they would give it consideration for their board meeting this weekend. We said, 'Great. We're going to approve this.' They said, 'We'll watch and see what happens, and we'll let you know."
Brady did not wish to say which way he felt the Cubs were leaning, even as several media reports out of both Phoenix and Chicago have the Cubs staying in Mesa. A Fox TV station in Phoenix reported the Cubs were "99 percent sure" to stay in Mesa and that baseball Commissioner Bud Selig wants them to stay.
"I don't want to speculate because I don't want to jinx this thing," Brady said. "It's been going pretty well so far. We've really worked hard to give them a really good opportunity to stay in Mesa. We think this is where everybody wants them to be anyway. So we're working hard to keep them here."
The Cubs have trained in Mesa continuously since 1979. They also were there from 1952-65. Fan sentiment at last weekend's Cubs convention in Chicago was solidly behind Mesa.
The Cubs have spent 13 years at the Fitch Park and HoHoKam Park (the main stadium) facilities, but those sites have been eclipsed by newer, state-of-the-art complexes in the Phoenix area.
Naples became a serious player this winter, and at times it looked like the Cubs might be favoring a Florida site and the chance to play exhibition games against the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals in Florida.
The current Cubs facilities are in the center of Mesa. The proposed new facilities would be several miles east of downtown and accessible by Highway 202, a major freeway loop in the Phoenix area.
"What's interesting about this, the way this deal might work out, is that the Cubs expressed interest that they would go out and purchase the property for the stadium so they can control the development around it," Brady said of the proposed new locations. "We're letting them make that decision. There are some sites we've all looked at, both on the northeast side and southeast side. We're waiting for them to eventually make that decision."
Although taking nothing as a done deal, Brady admitted to some anxious moments over this winter over possibly losing the biggest attraction for the state of Arizona in spring training.
"Absolutely," he said. "We just can't imagine what it would be without the Cubs here. They are part of the fabric here. For us, Mesa is the Cubs, and this is critical. This is why we're doing this in a very public way and putting our offer out there. We're doing everything we can to keep them here."