MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, an outspoken opponent of a Cactus League ticket surcharge that would bail out the finances of the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority and help fund a new Cubs facility, says he's taken over negotiations with the state over the outlines of any funding plan. Meanwhile, we hear from several sources that a renovation of HoHoKam Park may on the horizon if state funding falls through.
One thing is for sure: The Chicago Cubs are no closer to a deal for a new spring-training facility than they were six months ago. Or six years ago.
Over the weekend MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, an outspoken opponent of a Cactus League ticket surcharge that would bail out the finances of the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority and help fund a new Cubs facility, says he's taken over negotiations with the state over the outlines of any funding plan. The plan, which is opposed by the vast majority of Cactus League teams and several cities, calls for the imposition of a 10 percent ticket surcharge on Cactus League ducats, which is expected to raise $186 million over 30 years for ASTA, which has financed virtually all of the spring-venue construction and renovations in the Phoenix area in recent years. But ASTA needs some new sources of income: its tourism funding has tailed off, and right now ASTA has nothing left in its coffers.
The Cubs and the city of Mesa were looking to ASTA for some $80 million toward a new spring facility. Legislators like the idea of a ticket surcharge because it doesn't add to the Maricopa County rental-car tax, already amongst the highest in the nation. And it still allows those benefiting the most from the new ballpark — baseball fans — to pay for it.
Selig is passionately opposed to ticket surcharges and has advocated the creation of Mesa tax-increment financing district to pay for a new ballpark. That's all fine and good, but the state of Arizona has nothing like tax-increment financing on the books; the Legislature would need to create one from scratch. Heady work in a session where the state is facing some serious budget deficits.
With the Cubs pushed aside, the team is back to where it was six months ago: nowhere. We've heard from several insiders that if Selig manages to scuttle the ticket surcharge, the fallback plan will be yet another HoHoKam renovation. It can't address some of the big problems with the facility — no nearby playing fields and training facility — but it would renovate the ballpark to the point where more fans can be accommodated and more revenue derived from big-buck spenders. (And no, there's no chance the team will move to Naples. That was a pipe dream with an even more speculative financing scheme than Mesa was proposing.) From what we've heard, we're relatively certain the final plan for the Cubs in Mesa still hasn't seen the light of day.
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Meanwhile, we hear from several sources that a renovation of HoHoKam Park may on the horizon if state funding falls through.