NAPLES — The wait is almost over.
A spokesman for the Collier County group hoping to woo the Chicago Cubs to the Naples area for spring training said Wednesday he anticipates a decision early next week.
Craig Bouchard, vice chairman of Esmark, Inc., said Wednesday he believes team officials could make an announcement as early as Monday.
Chicago-based Esmark Inc. and Naples-based Fifth Avenue Advisors have teamed up to bring the team to Collier County for spring training.
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.
The team has trained in Mesa, Ariz., for about 50 years.
That decision — if Bouchard’s prediction is correct — would come on the heels of the 25th annual Chicago Cubs convention scheduled for this weekend. The annual convention is touted as the kick-off to spring training and the regular season.
Peter Chase, a Cubs’ spokesman, said in an e-mail Wednesday that “the Cubs still expect to have a decision by the end of the month.”
“Beyond that, I do not have any further details at this time,” Chase went on to say.
Team president Crane Kenney said, according to a Jan. 6 story on ESPNChicago, the interview and fact gathering part of the process has been completed.
Kenney was last in Collier County in December, and was scheduled to be in Mesa on Wednesday to discuss options for a new stadium and minor league complex to replace Hohokam Park, the team’s current spring training home.
Bouchard — along with Gary Price and Craig Lyon of Fifth Avenue Advisors — discussed the project with the Daily News editorial board Wednesday.
The group said they hoped to move forward with a public-private plan to fund spring training in Collier County. That plan, they said, would not include the use of property taxes or sales taxes.
Instead, the group is looking into the possibility of tourist tax dollars to help fund a portion of the project.
Though the group initially looked at a model to fund the whole project privately, a December meeting in Tallahassee pushed the group to begin looking at some public funding.
Price said officials in Tallahassee told the group that funding for spring training is available but the state cannot match private dollars. With a commitment not to use property or sales taxes to fund a stadium, Price said the group began looking at the use of tourist tax dollars.
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.
Price said projections show that moving the Chicago Cubs to Collier County could bring $2.9 million annually in revenue for the Tourist Development Council.
The organization foresees that it would ask for about $3 million in tourist tax money to go toward the project.
“It would pay for itself,” Price said.
No formal request has been made and tourism dollars cannot be given to a private entity.
Once a decision regarding spring training is made, either Mesa or the Collier County group would have 120 days to secure funding and tie up loose ends.
Bouchard and Price are both still hopeful Collier County will be chosen.
“I think it’s 50-50,” Price said. “It started as a pipe dream (for me) but as we build our model our chances look better.”
Connect with Naples reporter Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster at www.naplesnews.com/staff/jenna-buzzacco