Mesa Mayor Scott Smith said his city has discovered several ways to meet a July deadline to keep the Chicago Cubs in Arizona despite a setback that seemingly doomed the effort.
The city is working with the team on various plans that could bypass the state Legislature, which failed to pass legislation this spring that was critical to funding a new spring training complex.
Lawmakers are unlikely to meet again by July, but Smith said Tuesday that some alternate plans show promise.
“I think the odds are very good that we will have a deal in place,” he said. “And when I say deal, I don’t know whether it will be the final deal, but I think it will be a deal that is significant and substantial enough that it would enable the Cubs to make a decision knowing that they have financing in place to build a stadium here.”
Smith wouldn’t reveal specifics of the latest plans in a year-long effort to keep the team.
Mesa and the Cubs have an agreement setting various deadlines as the two identify a 100-acre training site, a financial plan and other arrangements. If Mesa fails at any point, the Cubs can end exclusive negotiations and resume talks with investors trying to lure the team to Naples, Fla.
Mesa has made progress on other fronts after many setbacks, Smith said. He’s met with Valley mayors who have Cactus League training complexes in their communities to get their support as well.
Mesa’s funding plans have included money for improvements to other complexes in the future to prevent other Cactus League teams from considering Florida. The other mayors want to work together, “which is a big change from where we stared out three or four months ago,” Smith said.
One of Mesa’s plans relied heavily on a ticket surcharge at all Cactus League facilities, but Major League Baseball and every other franchise with a Valley presence opposed that approach.
As Mesa looks at other funding plans, Smith said, it has identified other potential sites for the complex. The city had focused on two areas of east Mesa: one near Recker Road and the Loop 202, and the other near the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. But the city now has six potential sites, Smith said.
Mesa promotes the new Cubs complex as an economic driver for the East Valley, estimating the team’s annual economic impact is $138 million. The complex would cost about $119 million.
A prior funding plan would have generated about $59 million from a tourism tax, $25 million from Mesa and $35 million from the Cubs. But the Legislature did not approve the tax.
The city and the team initially planned to have most details in place by early 2011. Smith said the city is working every angle to find a solution despite numerous troubles and plan changes.
“Contrary to what a lot of other people thought — that we’re dead — no, we’re not,” Smith said. “We’re still kicking and screaming and hopefully we’ll get something that will push us over the hump.”