Mesa’s top officials are preparing for an announcement with the Chicago Cubs this week. And one key advocate to move the team to Florida says that state’s chance has passed.
While the Cubs haven’t formally decided or announced plans, more signs have emerged that show the team is on the brink of saying they’ll stay in Mesa.
The Mesa City Council is expected to approve a deal for a new “Wrigleyville”-themed spring training complex tonight, and city officials say to expect a Cubs announcement shortly after.
Councilman Dennis Kavanaugh used his Twitter account to tease that after Monday’s approval, he’s “keeping my calendar open!”
“Once we take our vote Monday night, then I will think that you’re going to hear very quickly,” Kavanaugh told the Tribune.
Councilman Scott Somers, a firefighter, said he’s anticipating good news soon and is prepared to get to a news conference on short notice.
“Just like I keep my turnouts at the ready at the firehouse for a fire, I’ve learned to keep my suit and tie at the ready for a last-minute announcement for a Cubs arrangement,” Somers said Friday. “It’s at the end of the bed there, ready to go.”
A Florida sports radio host who sparked a bid from his state on Friday said Mesa has won out. David Moulton said he spoke with the Cubs more than a week ago and was told Florida had been chosen.
He figures the team changed its mind at the urging of baseball officials who feared disruption if the Cactus League’s top team left Arizona.
“It’s now at the 11th hour, and they decided to go with you,” Moulton said. “The ball’s in your court.”
Moulton routinely spoke with investors who proposed a complex in Collier County but emphasized he wasn’t part of their team.
The Cubs had been weighing a Florida move since last year while also negotiating with Mesa to replace practice facilities at Hohokam Stadium and Fitch Park.
The team has developed a loyal fan base since it first played here in the 1950s. Those supporters made their feelings known to the team’s new owners, the Ricketts family, last weekend at an annual Cubs convention in Chicago. When spring training was mentioned, they shouted “Mesa! Mesa! Mesa!”
No chants for Florida broke out.
Somers said it’s impossible to overestimate the effect that must have had on the team.
“They are in the business of delivering to their fans, whether it’s on the field and trying to seek out a World Series championship, which they continue to strive to do, or whether it’s making their fans happy in other ways,” Somers said. “It’s all about the fans.”
The Cubs will only say they’ll decide in January.
Yet some Cubs writers declared the team picked Mesa, posting stories the same hour on Thursday when city officials made public a nonbinding agreement they want the team to sign. It would establish exclusive negotiations between the two while they finalize a deal for an $84 million complex with a stadium of up to 15,000 seats.
The team has yet to select a design or specific site, but it has told the city it’s interested in two locations along Loop 202 in east Mesa.
The Cubs would have about a year to formally agree, which Kavanaugh said should be easy based on the detail laid out in the 14-page deal the Cubs would sign.
“I don’t think it would be tremendously difficult to move through to draft the final agreement because they’ve covered so much ground,” he said. “At least for a proposal, it’s pretty complete.”
The Cubs could terminate negotiations under various conditions and turn back to Florida if problems arise.
Even on Friday, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist held a news conference Friday in the Oceanside city of Naples to appeal to the team.
“Naples sells itself,” Crist was quoted as saying in the Naples Daily News. “Where would you rather be, in a desert or right by the water?”
Florida and Mesa have submitted proposals to the Cubs, but the Naples-area offer hasn’t been made public. Mesa acknowledged that by showing its hand, it could give Florida an advantage if that proposal is changed at the last minute to outdo the Arizona bid.
But Mesa officials showed confidence late in the week and did nothing to dismiss how sports writers had treated the events of the next few days as a foregone conclusion.
“They’re hedging a bet,” Somers said. “I would imagine it’s a pretty good bet.”