The Chicago Cubs coming to the Naples area for spring training?
A few months ago the notion sounded like a little more than the wish of baseball fans transplanted from the Windy City. It was all “gee whiz” and “what if?”
Now it is emerging as a business deal — with real business people with roots in our area as well as Chicago and access to the ear of the Cubs’ new owners.
Now this Cubs thing has our attention too.
We start to see the potential for winter tourism. The past flirtations with spring-training baseball in Collier County were defeated, with big hotels arguing business is already great in the winter/spring season and tourist taxes could be better used for other things, such as beaches and advertising.
Now, given the experience of the Boston Red Sox in Fort Myers, which is about to move to the next level with an even bigger stadium — as part of a destination resort/shopping complex off Daniels Parkway — we start to see the business potential of Chicagoland fans turning spring training into winter vacations.
We start to see the high-profile notoriety and marketing clout from having two of professional baseball’s most iconic franchises — the Red Sox and the Cubs — within an easy drive of each other and playing each other perhaps five or six times each March.
We’ll see where this goes.
Already we like what we hear from project officials about making it happen without money from Collier’s existing 4-cent or expanded tourist tax on short-term lodging.
We also like their tone — calm, modest, casting themselves as underdogs vs. another quality locale, Mesa, Ariz., where the Cubs train and play exhibition games now.
The buzz in the Chicago media says Naples’ chance is slim to none.
Our community is accustomed to challenges.
And, come spring, it is Chicago South.
A replica of Wrigley Field within a short drive to Fort Myers of a replica of Fenway Park?
We’re ready to play ball.
Let us know how we can help.