McComish plays key role in deal to keep Cubs in Valley - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Localnews

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McComish plays key role in deal to keep Cubs in Valley

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Posted: Monday, February 8, 2010 12:00 am

New details have on the cost for a new Chicago Cubs spring training facility in Mesa, and where the money will come from.     The total project would cost $119 million, an amount not given before.     The biggest chunk, $59 million, would come from tourism taxes. That would be combined with $25 million from Mesa to build a stadium and practice facilities. The remaining $35 million would come from the Cubs, a land transaction and infrastructure already in place. However, the exact split hasn’t been identified.     But key details are still unknown to everybody involved.     As officials announced Friday they will introduce legislation today to provide part of the funding, they acknowledged they haven’t settled on tax rates or certain funding formulas.     “Exactly what those will be is yet to be determined,” said House Majority Leader John McComish, R-Ahwatukee Foothills.     McComish will sponsor the bill, which he said will be written with several blank lines where the key financial details will later be filled in. Lawmakers still need to figure out how much money will come from a car-rental tax and from a ticket surcharge on Cactus League games.     Because of resistance from some that people across Maricopa County would pay for a Mesa facility, some lawmakers want the taxes to raise additional money for improvements to other spring training complexes in the Valley. Lawmakers are talking with tourism industry and baseball officials to see what they would or would not support before they set tax rates in the bill, he said.     “That’s part of what we’ve still got to figure out,” McComish said.     Mesa also isn’t sure how it would structure bonds to pay its share, which voters would be asked to approve in November. The city could repay the bonds with a sales tax or secondary property tax, Mesa Mayor Scott Smith said, but officials haven’t decided yet which they prefer.     Smith and McComish bristled at opposition to the plan by the Chicago White Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks, which was reported Friday in the Phoenix Business Journal. Smith was especially critical of White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf for leaving a Pima County complex for a “Taj Mahal” in Glendale while playing in a Chicago stadium, all of which involve public money.     “The irony is just delicious when you think of people complaining,” Smith said.     He and McComish relentlessly continued to make the case for efforts to keep the Cubs, despite the team announcing more than a week ago that it wants to stay here despite a bid from Florida.     Smith and McComish noted a new study showing the Cubs’ economic impact is $138 million a year, vastly more than the $52 million found in a previous study. The old study assumed the impact if the Cubs left and were replaced with a team that had average attendance during spring training. The new study identified the team’s total impact accounting for the tourism revenue generated by the 203,000 fans who attend Cubs spring training games — the most in major league baseball.     The “Wrigleyville West” concept of the new complex would generate even more tax revenue, McComish said.     “My interest in this is purely economic development,” he said.     Smith also pushed back on criticism that Mesa can’t get a new team in the Hohokam and Fitch Park facilities that the Cubs would leave. The Cubs have outgrown them, Smith said, but they’d be suitable for clubs with a smaller fan base.     “There already has been interest shown by other teams,” he said, declining any further details.     McComish dismissed skeptics who claim Mesa overreacted to a bid from Florida investors, saying they continue to work on plans in case the Arizona deal falls through.     McComish and Smith said economic benefits justify the taxpayer expense. But they acknowledged they couldn’t guarantee the current plan will comply with a recent Arizona Supreme Court ruling that banned other incentives for private interests.     Officials will have to have more specific financial plans before they can review whether the deal meets the court’s requirement that taxpayer incentives directly generate at least the same amount of economic benefit, Smith said.     “We may have to tweak some things,” he said.

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