With the urgency for investors to make a final proposal to get the Chicago Cubs to move to Collier County, Cub mania is catching on.
Anyone from the Midwest, and Florida, know how ardent the fans are. The biggest attendance draw for the Florida Marlins is when the Cubs come to Miami for a weekend.
With the Collier County Hotel & Lodging Association announcing support of a local investor group by saying it would consider tourism tax dollars to be used to seal the deal, the Cubs fans are on the bandwagon.
TJ and Bob Boone are sporting their Cubs hats, hoping to renew cheering for the Cubs like they did in Illinois.
“We grew up in Lake Forest, Ill., and have been Cub fans since birth,” TJ said.
Before and after they went to games, they grew up listening to Harry Caray and Steve Stone, calling the games over WGN, where Floridians also view the Cubs, if not on ESPN.
Both say they hope they don’t have to wait another 102 years for Cubs to win a World Series, which they did back in 1908.
They also think it be an economic boon for the Collier County economy.
TJ said, “I think it would definitely boost the local economy. Hotels, restaurants, real estate, new jobs, those valuable tourism dollars would be welcome to our Paradise Coast. So to the Cubs organization, ‘Come on down to Hohokam Southeast.’”
The Hohokam is a reference to the facilities in Mesa, Ariz.
Joey Oliverio, Marco Island Restaurant Association president, agrees. “We would be ecstatic if we got the Cubs here. It would be absolutely awesome for business,” he said.
City Council Chairman Rob Popoff was very enthused about the prospects of the Cubs locating in Collier County, particularly if one of the rumored site was chosen. The “Wrigley Village” could be constructed along Collier Boulevard, near the I-75 interchange.
“Wouldn’t that be great to shoot up 951 (Collier Boulevard) to see the Cubs,” he said. “I think the possibility is really exciting. It would be great for the economy with the jobs it would bring. I’m not a crazy baseball fan, but I have gone to games in Fort Myers and it sure was a lot of fun. I’m a (Detroit) Tiger fan, but I could become a Cubs fan if they came here.”
On Jan. 7 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 that explained it would support the use of tourist tax dollars if that would be required to seal the deal to lure the Cubs out of Mesa, Ariz.
Rick Medwedeff, general manager of the Marco Island Marriott, said all members of the group’s board of directors approved the letter.
“Without exception,” Medwedeff said. “We’re very excited about the thought of the Cubs coming here. There’s 31,000 people that work in Collier County in the tourism industry. We believe this would be a significant tourism generator.”
Vip Grover, new president of the Marco Island Chamber of Commerce, said, “I think anything that enhances the opportunity for business in the community we would favor. It would have to be something that didn’t just benefit the Cubs, not just having a pro team in the area, but something that benefits businesses and the community as a whole.”
The Reese and Plagge families have been huge Cubs fans, with Irene Plagge having gone to games for 50 year. She has attended at least 25 opening days.
Pat and Carmen Reese live on Marco, while the Plagges visit from Geneva, Ill. The Reese’s daughter, Patti Reese Plagge, just bought a condo on Marco and would love to see the Cubs come down for spring training.
While being interviewed they were decked out in Cubs shirts, caps, even with banners.
Carmen was sporting a jersey with renowned broadcaster Harry Caray’s facial emblem.
Irene’s husband of 53 years, Norm, thought it was part of the marriage agreement to be a Cubs fan. Both were born in the Chicago area and grew up with the Cubs.
“We’ve taken spring trips to Arizona many times, but we like Marco and sure would rather come here,” Norm said.
Even the disaster of the 1969 Cubs, who swooned in the last month of the season, blowing a nine-game lead, doesn’t deter there support.
“Leo Durocher was a colorful manager,” Norm recalled at the time the Cubs had its disastrous finish.
Durocher did bring the team nearly to the heights of World Series caliber, but is often remembered for what he said three years before when he joined the Cubs as manager. He told reporters that the Cubs were no eighth-place team, where they were in the standings on that day.
He was right, they finished 10th!
Irene recalls the opening days that were frequently cold.
“I can remember people shoveling out the stands and I had an official Cubs quilt coat,” she said. She has Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg’s jersey.
The most disappointing player, Sammy Sosa. He and Mark McGwire assaulted the home run records, both surpassing Roger Maris’ 61 home run mark in 2001. Then the use of self-enhancing drugs raised its ugly head in baseball and it is doubtful that either will reach Hall of Fame status, even if their stats would qualify them.
“It was very disappointing,” she said. “I felt he was a good enough player that he didn’t have to do that.”
Patti Reese Plagge was at Wrigley Field when they retired Ryne Sandberg’s No. 23 jersey.
“There is nothing like being in Wrigley Field.,” she said. “The fact that Wrigley Field has remained the same makes it more nostalgic.”
Sean Plagge, 19, said, “My grandma just knows so much and has so many stories, I love going with her and my family.” His favorite player is Derrek Lee, Cub first baseman who played for the championship Marlins.
Pat and Carmen spent their 50th wedding anniversary at Wrigley Field.
“I love going to the games and seeing all the players,” she said. “The park, the fans, the atmosphere is marvelous.”
Pat Reese says the Cubs-White Sox rivalry is good for the city, but the jostling does go on.
“I got called a quiche-eating xxxx a few times,” he said.
Irene would love to throw out the first baseball when the Cubs open spring training in Collier County.
But for now she had to settle for throwing out a ball at a Marco Senior Softball game.