Lest we in Southwest Florida take personally the Chicago Cubs apparent rejection of a new spring training home in Collier County for a new spring training facility in familiar Mesa, Ariz., let us consider some other things the Cubs are prepared to reject.
At the Cubs Convention earlier this month, Cubs owners and management met repeatedly with fans in question-and-answer sessions.
The executives used the meetings as sounding boards to gauge fan support for changes they are considering.
Without fail, Cubs fans, by show of hands, favored sticking with the familiar.
For example, a long-standing Cubs tradition is to raise a flag with a “W” on it over Wrigley Field after a Cubs win. A flag with an “L” is hoisted after a loss. How many of you would like to get rid of the “L” flag? fans were asked. By a good three-to-one margin, the fans said no. Announcing a loss isn’t enjoyable, but it’s a Cubs tradition. Keep it.
Exploring possible improvements to the nearly 100-year-old stadium, club President Crane Kenney asked the assembled representatives of Cubs nation if they’d like to see a giant TV screen at the park. It would allow fans enjoy the spectacular plays and to relive the game-winning hits right after the moment, rather than waiting to get home to see it on Sports Center.
Save your money, the fans said in another one-sided vote. And when you go renovating Wrigley, don’t even think of modernizing the hand-operated scoreboard in right-center field.
How about Friday night games? Get off work, come to the ballpark, party after the game? No thanks. Friday afternoon baseball is fine with us.
Mesa is a Cubs tradition. Naples isn’t. All other things being equal, that alone is enough to cause the scale to thud down on the side of Mesa.
At the convention, concern over rising ticket prices rivaled questions over the spring training locale as the off-the-field topic of the weekend.
Cubs fans value the scrappy underdog role 101 years without a championship has embossed on the franchise. They don’t mind Wrigley’s lack of luxury skyboxes and the interactive fan experience, whatever that is.
There was a palpable sense at the convention that higher ticket prices, upscale ballpark amenities and a possible spring training move to Naples would represent a gentrification of their beloved Cubbies. Comments like, “Naples is more for the wealthy,” and “Naples, isn’t that all old, rich people?” were common.
Those of us who live and work in Collier County might take issue with the notion it is only for the rich, but compared to Mesa, Collier County is older and wealthier. U.S. Census figures put median household income in Collier County at $58,000 compared to $42,000 for Mesa. The median age in Collier County is 45. In Mesa it’s 33. In both cases, Mesa’s demographics fit Chicago’s ($38,000 income/32 median age) like a broken-in baseball glove, helping to explain why Cubs fans feel comfortable there.
Nothing personal, Collier County, but it appears team management feels that way too.