COLLIER COUNTY — Collier County Commissioner Donna Fiala has been against any spending of Collier County dollars for the construction of “Wrigley Field South.”
She is now reconsidering since the Collier County Hotel & Lodging Association has decided to back the project. The association’s support could lead to tourist development dollars to help the project become a reality.
The Collier County Hotel & Lodging Association voted unanimously to support efforts to bring the Chicago Cubs to the county for spring training. The group sent a letter to the Cubs on Jan. 7 saying it would support the use of tourist tax dollars if that would be required to get the Cubs out of Mesa, Ariz.
“I didn’t ever want to touch any kind of taxpayer dollars for the building or maintaining of a stadium,” she said. “I also was not in favor of using tourist development taxes, but I am having a change of heart.”
“My change of heart came after learning that the hoteliers want to support the plan,” Fiala said. “The hoteliers are the back bone of Marco Island and the Collier County community. If the hoteliers want to invest tourist dollars to assist in building a stadium I will back them on that. It would be my obligation to back them 100 percent.”
Rick Medwedeff, general manager of the Marco Island Marriott, said all the members of the group’s board of directors approved the letter.
Medweddeff said that without exception the hoteliers we’re very excited about the the Cubs coming to the county. “There are 31,000 people in Collier County that work in the tourism industry. We believe this will be a significant tourism generator,” he said.
Medwedeff met with Cubs President Crane Kenney shortly before Christmas. Kenney gave Medwedeff the impression that the owners were looking for support from the hotel association and the big hoteliers to get behind the project.
“Kenney said if he got the consensus of the lodging organiztion within the county that it would suppoprt the project by virtue of bed tax funds it would be the last piece he was looking for to approach the owners that they submit their notice of termination with Mesa and start negotiations with Collier,” Medweddeff said.
Mac Chaudhry, general manager of the Marco Island Hilton Beach Resort spoke of his support.
“I think the economic impact of the Cubs moving to Collier County will be enormous,” he said. “A lot of hotels, motels, including restaurants, retail businesses, I think everyone will be impacted positively, big time. As a member of the hoteliers board of directors I strongly recommended the letter that was approved.”