One of Mesa's few downtown-area attractions as well as major sources of tourism revenue is Chicago Cubs spring training baseball. This valued source of income for both the city and private businesses that benefit from the Cubs' annual appearance is worth noting in the wake of the city's announcement of its early payoff of a $9.7 million loan to renovate Hohokam Stadium, the Cubs' spring home.
As the Tribune's Gary Grado reported Sunday, the retirement of the loan eight years early saves city taxpayers about $2 million annually.
This is welcome news for Mesa, which has been contending with tough fiscal times to a greater extent than the city halls of most of its neighbors.
Spring baseball is played in one other East Valley city's downtown, to that area's longtime benefit. When Scottsdale's downtown underwent a slump in the late 1990s and early part of this decade, spring baseball continued to bring in sizeable crowds to the games and to dine out and shop before and after them.
But in these difficult days for the local and national economy it's important to note what Cactus League spring training baseball means for the East Valley and to Arizona - and that East Valley communities, their chambers of commerce and other business groups should pay attention to where the league might be going: west.
It wasn't very long ago that spring baseball in Arizona was virtually the sole province of the East Valley. Only one team was in Tucson then, and if one counts Phoenix Municipal Stadium several hundred yards from Tempe and Scottsdale, all of the rest of the ballparks were here.
Since then the number of Tucson teams grew to three, but that could change as new ballparks are to be built or proposed for the West Valley, where soon can be found five to seven teams to the East Valley's four.
Mesa is a clear example of spring baseball's importance to both a city's national reputation and as a source of reliable income to both the public and private sectors. Let's make sure we in the East Valley don't forget that.