Support has died for funding a new Chicago Cubs complex in Mesa by charging a ticket surcharge at every Valley stadium that hosts Cactus League games.
No alternative plan has emerged, but Mesa Mayor Scott Smith said on Monday that the city is cobbling together a new plan with lawmakers and Major League Baseball.
A new funding scheme would be at least the third one put together after opponents struck down various ideas.
“In many ways, we’re starting from scratch,” Smith said.
The surcharge had been touted just weeks ago as a way to raise $185 million over 30 years to fund the $84 million Cubs complex and improvements at other Valley baseball parks. It was arranged so other teams — and not just the Cubs — would get something out of the fee.
But MLB Commissioner Bud Selig opposed the surcharge, as did the other 14 clubs that hold spring training in Arizona.
Selig appeared in person this weekend in Mesa to blast the plan again. While Smith has championed the idea, he acknowledged Monday the surcharge is now unrealistic.
“Everybody’s realized there’s widespread opposition and the fact is that we’re talking about alternatives,” Smith said. “To me, that is not a bad thing.”
Mesa, lawmakers and MLB are considering other funding options, Smith said while declining to give any details. The city has tried to raise more money that is needed for the Cubs stadium to get support from other teams and communities. That approach has backfired with teams and some lawmakers. Smith is staying with that main concept, however.
“My guess is that what we’ll end up with is a combination of two or three different things that hopefully can spread the benefits and the obligations around as equitably as possible,” he said.
The plan should emerge in about two weeks and will need to find support quickly. The Legislature must approve any plan, and lawmakers want to adjourn their session by the end of April.
A county-wide car rental tax was part of an earlier proposal, but opposition nixed that idea. Mesa has supported fees directly related to the games or tourism revenue that gets a boost during spring training. The 10 percent surcharge would add about $2 to the average ticket price of $20.
The House has approved the surcharge option in HB2736, but Majority Leader John McComish, R-Ahwatukee Foothills, is awaiting further action until a new plan emerges.
Mesa is continuing efforts to sell the Cubs stadium as a statewide benefit. The Cubs have the most-attended games among the 15 Valley baseball teams, and an economic study commissioned by Mesa showed an annual economic impact of $138 million. The Cubs have threatened to move to Naples, Fla., if they can’t get a new stadium here. The team will stay if an agreement is put in place this year.
Mesa held a rally before a spring training game Monday, having Smith, Gilbert Mayor John Lewis, Chandler Mayor Boyd Dunn and Gov. Jan Brewer show their support. Cubs owner Tom Ricketts was also on hand.
Dunn said when the Milwaukee Brewers played in Chandler’s Compadre Stadium years ago, a Cubs visit would trigger a sell-out. Mesa officials note most Valley teams have their highest attendance when playing against the Cubs.
“The Cubs are critical to the welfare of the Cactus League and we have to find a way to get the job done,” Dunn said.
Brewer wore a Cubs jersey to the rally and said lawmakers are committed to make something work because of the team’s importance to the state’s economy.
“There’s a lot of people, not only at the Legislature, but in the community and Major League Baseball, all working together, to get this resolved,” Brewer said. “Our goal is to keep the Cubs here in Arizona. That’s everybody’s goal.”