Mesa and the Chicago Cubs have reached agreement on all the key details of a new $99 million spring training complex after more than two years of work to keep the team from bolting to Florida.
The deal will become official Monday, when the City Council is expected to approve contracts that span nearly 300 pages.
Mesa expects the complex will host spring training in 2014, though the city initially had hoped it would be ready a year earlier. The effort got bogged down as Mesa and the Cubs realized they couldn’t work on major issues without a site plan, City Manager Chris Brady said. Once one was drafted, the number of plans mushroomed.
“Dozens,” Brady said. “Everybody had an idea.”
The deal was slowed additionally when the Cubs added a diamond for Arizona State University’s Sun Devils, but Brady downplayed the effect of that element.
The agreements cover how the city and the Cubs will build, maintain and pay for the complex’s elements. The team agreed to stay in Mesa 30 years, with an option for 50 years.
The agreement requires Mesa to fund capital improvements every 10 years. The contract should avoid one past problem for Mesa when the Cubs would ask the city to pay for equipment that other teams had, Brady said.
“We used to refer to it as the ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ provision,” Brady said.
That happened in 2009, when the Cubs said they needed new batting cages to be competitive with other teams. The equipment cost nearly $700,000 and wasn’t in Mesa’s budget.
In the future, the city is only required to fund certain upgrades if the Cubs can show at least five other Cactus League teams have the same thing.
“This is hopefully creating more of a disciplined process to that,” Brady said.
The agreement also requires the Cubs to pay $1 million a year if they leave the complex before the deal expires. The penalty would roughly cover the debt to repay the facility’s construction, Brady said.
The Cubs have exclusive development options on up to 6 acres for a planned Wrigleville West entertainment complex. The two sides agreed the Cubs would pay $9 per foot after the city and the team got vastly different appraisals.
A Cubs-funded appraiser valued the land at $6 per foot, while Mesa’s appraiser pegged it at $12. The two sides split the difference in part because both appraisals included a few of the same properties, which were valued at about $9.
Mesa expects work could begin on the site in June. With the agreements in place, design work can now begin on the stadium and rebuilding Riverview Park, Brady said. The new park will include a higher lake with more sidewalks around it. Brady expects it will be the only baseball complex in the nation within a park setting.
“I think it’s going to be kind of a cool environment so that even when the Cubs aren’t playing there, it will still be a destination,” he said.
Mesa has posted the agreements online at www.mesaaz.gov/bettermesa/cubs.aspx
• Contact writer: (480) 898-6548 or firstname.lastname@example.org