NAPLES — Now comes the hard part: the wait.
Chicago Cubs fans should have an answer in the coming weeks about whether the Cubs will call Collier County home each spring.
Gary Price, a partner in Fifth Avenue Advisors, said the group looking to bring the team to Collier County is preparing its final presentation to the team.
Fifth Avenue Advisors and Chicago-based Esmark Inc. have been working together to bring the team to Collier County for spring training.
The team has trained in Mesa, Ariz., for about 50 years.
Team president Crane Kenney said, according to a Jan. 6 story on ESPN Chicago, all of the interview and fact gathering part of the process has been completed.
Kenney, according to the same report, said the prospective first choice will be made in the next few weeks.
Peter Chase, the team’s spokesman, said Thursday the team expects to have a decision by the end of the month.
Once that decision is made, Collier County – if chosen – would have a 90- to 120-day window to tie up all the loose ends.
“We already have the two different properties secured,” Price said. “We’re focused on two (and) the Cubs like both of them. We’re trying to leave it as open as possible.”
The group in October said the project would require 120 contiguous acres and would include a 15,000-seat stadium and the club’s main offices.
Price said during a press conference earlier last year he saw this project as a public-private partnership, and that the project could be a beneficiary of tourism taxes.
The group is in the process of securing private funding, and Price said community members have shown they support the use of some public money.
Price’s group received a critical endorsement for the use of public money this week.
The Collier County Hotel and Lodging Association on Jan. 5 sent a letter to Kenney saying the group’s board of directors unanimously supported efforts to bring the team to Collier County.
The letter went on to say the board supports the use of the tourist tax, if necessary, to bring the move to fruition.
Esmark Inc. vice chairman Craig Bouchard said Kenney was in town in late December and met with officials from many of Collier County’s hotels, as well as with Esmark and Fifth Avenue Advisors.
The discussions, he said, centered on the projected $50 million of annual economic impact from a Cubs move to Collier County.
“As has been the case in each of our meetings with local business leaders, when the hard data hits the table the level of interest rises noticeably,” Bouchard said in an e-mail. “Indeed it’s becoming obvious that the year-round impact would be greater than the relocation of a Fortune 500 company headquarters to Collier County.”
Steve McIntire, president of the Collier County Hotel and Lodging Association, said his group wanted to support the project because it would be a good use of tourism dollars.
“We felt it was a very good thing for Collier County and we’re willing to use some of the bed tax funds to bring them down here,” he said.
McIntire was not among the hoteliers who met with the Kenney, but said those who did encouraged the association to support the move.
The group did not take a stand one way or another about whether the tourist tax should be increased.
The tourist tax – commonly known as the bed tax – is a 4 percent tax levied on all rental income received from accommodations rented for six months or less. The tax is levied on hotels and resorts, but also single family dwellings and condominiums.
Rick Medwedeff, general manager of the Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort, was among the hoteliers who met with Kenney last month.
Medwedeff said Thursday he supported the use tourist dollars, but would not comment on whether he supported an increase.
“I have no comment on the increase at this stage,” he said. “I’m supportive of using bed tax money, but whether it’s an increase or not, (I think) it’s too early to delve into.”
Jack Wert, the county’s tourism director, said an endorsement from the hoteliers could prove beneficial in the future.
“That kind of support would certainly be important to the determination,” he said. “They certainly look to the lodging association because they are the collector of that tax.”
But tourism dollars can not be given to a private entity, Wert said. The group has also not approached the county about the use of tourism dollars.
Not all hoteliers support the use of tourist tax dollars, though.
Naples developer and owner of the Inn on Fifth Phil McCabe said Thursday while he supported efforts to bring the Cubs to Collier County, he did not support the use of tourist tax dollars.
“I think to bring the Cubs to Collier County would be great, absolutely fantastic,” he said. “It would be a terrific amenity and venue for us here in Collier County ... (but) as far as going after tax dollars, I think it’s unnecessary because of all the billionaires behind this thing.”
McCabe said he did not think using tourist dollars would be the “right investment for getting the highest impact of how we spend our dollars.”
McCabe may not be alone. Collier County commissioners in December said they would likely not support the use of tax dollars to build a stadium.
County commissioners were unavailable for comment Thursday.
Price said his group is hoping to have an answer in the next 10 to 14 days about whether Collier County has been selected.
“I put (our chances) at 50-50,” Price said. “That’s up from where I started, at a pipe dream. We want to show why it’s important and why we’re the best choice, and I feel good about the effort.”
Connect with Naples reporter Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster at www.naplesnews.com/staff/jenna-buzzacco