Bed taxes could be used to keep Cubs here - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Bed taxes could be used to keep Cubs here

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Posted: Saturday, April 4, 2009 8:03 pm | Updated: 1:22 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Our View: Mesa Mayor Scott Smith has started to prepare the public for the possibility that the Chicago Cubs could be gone in four years.Smith sounded somewhat pessimistic at a Tuesday news conference as he outlined the city’s efforts to convince the Cubs to stay in Mesa for spring training after 2012.

Mesa Mayor Scott Smith has started to prepare the public for the possibility that the Chicago Cubs could be gone in four years.

Smith sounded somewhat pessimistic at a Tuesday news conference as he outlined the city’s efforts to convince the Cubs to stay in Mesa for spring training after 2012. The Cubs want a significant upgrade to the training facilities at Fitch Park, and the team is seriously looking at moving away as far as Florida if such improvements aren’t forthcoming.

Mesa officials are pinning their hopes on a private investor stepping forward with enough funds to match the Cubs’ expectations, possibly in exchange for exclusive naming rights at Hohokam Stadium. That would be the ideal solution, as it wouldn’t burden Mesa taxpayers with subsidizing a sports franchise and could avoid the necessity for a citywide election.

But Smith said Tuesday that current economic conditions don’t bode well for the prospects of recruiting a big private spender, Tribune writer Sonu Munshi reported.

With that in mind, we point out the city does have a source of public funds that could be used without directly harming basic services — about $2 million collected each year in hotel bed taxes.

Right now, those funds go primarily to the Mesa Convention and Visitors Bureau for marketing and promotional activities to attract more visitors who fill hotels, eat at restaurants and generate sales tax dollars. Naturally, a sizable portion of that marketing revolves around the thousands of baseball fans who flock to town for 30 days each spring to watch the Cubs and other teams play at Hohokam Stadium.

Mesa hotels are going to be concerned about the diversion of the tax money they collect for a coordinated strategy to boost tourism and to keep their properties busy. But losing the Cubs would create an enormous gap in that strategy that would be nearly impossible for Mesa to fill in the near future.

If Mesa must choose between a much smaller tourism budget or a full budget without spring baseball to market, the first option seems to be the wiser course to pursue.

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