Cubs courting Sun Devils at planned Mesa training facility - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Cubs courting Sun Devils at planned Mesa training facility

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Posted: Thursday, August 4, 2011 5:03 pm | Updated: 3:05 pm, Thu Oct 20, 2011.

The Chicago Cubs have an unconventional tenant in mind for their new training and entertainment complex in Mesa: Arizona State University’s Sun Devils.

The Cubs have asked the Devils to move their training and practice to the Mesa site in a deal that so far seems to work for everybody.

The Cubs want the Wrigleyville West entertainment district to be lively all year, and the Devils would add a few dozen event days every year.

And ASU figures it has to eventually shell out $20 million to $25 million to replace the aging Packard Stadium.

The Cubs approached ASU a few months ago, and ASU Athletic Director Lisa Love recently floated the idea in a letter to season ticketholders. The concept seems to be moving forward, said Virgil Renzulli, ASU’s vice president of public affairs.

“There are a lot of details maybe that have to be worked out,” he said. “Right now, I haven’t heard from any side of any major obstacles.”

Mesa Mayor Scott Smith said the two sides must have made some progress in talks for ASU to send a public letter. He’s not privy to all the details and said the city only learned of the ASU angle when reviewing the Cubs’ latest plans.

“All of a sudden a seventh field shows up on the site plan and that raised the issue, Why is there an extra field here?” he said. “That’s when the Cubs let us in on what was going on.”

The deal would be mostly between the team and ASU. Mesa welcomes the Devils because would boost activity and make it easier to recruit shops and restaurants in the entertainment district. Mesa wants Wrigleyville West to be one of the city’s signature attractions.

Smith arrived in Chicago on Thursday afternoon while on personal vacation and plans to visit Cubs executives at Wrigley Field on Friday.

“My guess is we’ll talk about ASU and the Cubs,” he said. “We’ve had phone conversations but I think we’ll talk about some of the specifics.”

Cubs general counsel Mike Lufrano deferred specific details to ASU and Mesa.

“We’re in discussions and we’re excited about the possibility,” he said.

The Devils would pay the Cubs about $2 million for their own field and a clubhouse. ASU wouldn’t pay rent if ticket sales are below $1.1 million a year. ASU would spit revenue after that. Now, annual sales are about $500,000, Renzulli said.

ASU sees the expense as a bargain compared with the cost of rebuilding the aging Packard Stadium, which dates to 1974. Needed repairs are so extensive that it’s more cost effective to replace Packard than keep it going, Renzulli said.

“We do know that something has got to be done, in fact almost everything,” Renzulli said. “It’s the seats, it’s the restrooms, it’s the eating facilities, it’s the elevator, it’s the accessibility. That’s just about everything.”

The Mesa facility’s high quality would help ASU recruit athletes and fans, Renzulli said.

And the university could raise substantial funding by demolishing Packard and practice fields, then leasing the prime real estate for commercial development. Several Tempe elected officials said they like the development potential despite losing the team, Renzulli said.

The Devils would likely move in 2014 if the deal is consummated.

The city and Cubs are finalizing their agreement and site plan this summer for the $99 million complex at the southeast corner of the Loop 101 and Loop 202 freeways.

The Devils and Cubs would have some schedule conflicts that ASU and Mesa said would be easy enough to resolve.

Some thought has gone into one cringe-inducing conflict for Sun Devil fans — the Cubs’ liberal use of blue. No Sun Devil would want red and blue splashed across the stadium in what would appear to be an act of vandalism by University of Arizona Wildcats. So the stadium’s colors are mostly neutral, Smith said. And technology allows advertising banners and electronic signs to change at the flip of the switch.

“It’s going to be state of the art,” Smith said “It’s going to be something that every one is proud of.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6548 or ggroff@evtrib.com

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