Despite the anti-tax sentiment carrying the day in most of America, Mesa voters yesterday voted to spend almost $100 million on a new Chicago Cubs spring-training facility, funded by higher hotel taxes and a selloff of city land.
The approval came via two ballot issues. The first, which passed with 63 percent of the vote, authorized the city to exceed its spending limits on sporting facilities. The second, which passed by a narrower margin (with 58 percent of the vote), authorized the city to raise the hotel tax by two percentage points (to 5 percent) to help pay for it. Mesa will also sell land in remote Pinal County to pay down debt on the facility.
As part of the deal the Cubs will sign a 30-year lease for the facility. About $84 million is budgeted for the spring complex itself; another $15 million will be used for infrastructure.
The vote means that a new spring-training complex will be built for the Cubs at the 125-acre Riverview Park site in the northwest corner of the city. The city owns the land but already has a development deal with a waterpark company on part of the site; it's likely that the waterpark could become part of the larger Cubs training complex. Besides the Cubs training facility, the Ricketts family will privately develop a Wrigleyville West retail/restaurant complex.
It's a big win for the Cubs: earlier polling had indicated the measures may not pass, but the team spent heavily on media and trotted out Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, to personally lobby voters for their approval.
One loose thread: what to do with HoHoKam Park. The Cubs have pledged to help Mesa officials find a new tenant.
Rendering courtesy of Keep the Cubs.
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