Mesa insists it will not oust the Waveyard water park developers from the Riverview Park property even as that site has emerged as the Chicago Cubs’ top choice for a new spring training complex.
City officials have become increasingly skeptical Waveyard will be built, but Mayor Scott Smith said on Tuesday that Mesa isn’t telling the developer to abandon its plans so the baseball franchise can have the site.
Waveyard has until July 2011 to get permits from the city. Smith said it’s not for Mesa to decide early whether the project is still viable.
“That’s their call,” Smith said. “We’re not here to try to move Waveyard out of the agreement, nor are the Cubs.”
Waveyard’s agreement with Mesa requires it to have permits and proof of financing for the city to transfer the 125-acre property to Waveyard. But Smith said it will become clear by the end of the year whether the developer is far enough along to make the July deadline.
Should it appear Waveyard can’t meet the deadline, Smith said Mesa won’t move to cut off the deal. But he did say the city will broach the subject of the Cubs using the land.
“I’m sure there will be some very honest and straightforward discussions,” Smith said.
Waveyard representatives did not return calls for comment on Tuesday.
The Cubs have been looking at sites across Mesa for a year. Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts told the Tribune last week the Riverview site is the team’s top choice. The team is also looking at a location near the Loop 202 and Recker Road. Mesa’s City Council has suggested a downtown site, but Ricketts said the team has studied that location the least because it’s only come up recently.
The Cubs’ interest in the Waveyard site was sparked by Waveyard’s developers. They approached the team early this year with a plan to place the sports complex next to the resort and water park. The team wasn’t interested in a joint project.
The city didn’t offer that site a year ago because of its agreement with Waveyard. Ricketts, in his meeting with the Tribune, did not express an interest in making a move for the land unless Waveyard’s time runs out.
“Obviously, the Riverview site is one that has a lot of attraction for us,” Ricketts said. “It’s not available at the moment, so that’s its issue.”
The team is studying the pros and cons of each site. Mesa has launched its own study due for release in early September.
The Cubs have also started campaigning for approval of Proposition 420, which satisfies a city charter requirement to get voter approval on sports facilities that cost $1.5 million or more. Smith said he would like voters to have as many details of the complex as possible, including site plans and renderings of whatever locations are still being considered as the election nears.
The stadium and practice fields would cost about $84 million, paid for by Mesa and the Cubs. The team would develop a commercial venue called Wrigleyville West, featuring shops, restaurants and perhaps a hotel. That would be privately funded.
Waveyard was proposed in 2007 and voters later approved incentives for the $250 million project. It would include whitewater rafting, an indoor water park, scuba diving, a resort and shopping. Waveyard has been unable to get funding, and Mesa granted one extension already for the developer to raise money. The Cubs can wait until the July deadline passes to begin negotiating for the Waveyard site if that remains the top pick, Smith said.
“The Cubs have indicated that they’re willing for that to play out,” Smith said.