By Carrie Muskat
Cubs owner exploring spring options in Sunshine State
CHICAGO — Florida Gov. Charlie Crist met with Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of relocating the team’s Spring Training and player development facilities from Arizona to Florida.
Crist met in Tallahassee, Fla., with Ricketts and team president Crane Kenney, and the governor said he’s willing to go “as far as possible” to lure the team.
“We like palm trees better than cactus and hope that the Cubs might, too,” Crist said.
Florida businessmen Craig Bouchard, Gary Price and Tim Cartwright presented a proposal to Cubs officials as well as to Dale Brill, who heads the office of tourism, trade and economic development for the state of Florida. Bouchard is co-founder of Esmark, Inc., and Price and Cartwright work at Fifth Avenue Advisors in Naples, Fla.
The plan includes a $100 million stadium facility to be built in Collier County, which would be the Cubs’ Spring Training home. The facility also would be the base for a Class A Minor League franchise — the Cubs currently have one in Daytona, Fla. — and be the headquarters for the team’s Minor League operations and player development.
“With the governor, we discussed the merits of having $50 million of incremental revenue flow into Collier County annually and the additional boost the Cubs would generate to other towns in Florida which host Major League teams,” Bouchard told MLB.com. “Because the Cubs are the No. 1 draw of all Major League teams in the spring, attracting the Cubs would provide a boost to the economies of several counties in the state.”
The state of Florida has lost several teams in recent years, including the Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians and Los Angeles Dodgers. A recent study showed the Cubs bring in $52 million annually to the state of Arizona.
Ricketts said the Cubs’ goal is “really about getting the best facility.”
Ricketts and Kenney visited Florida in September and looked at sites in Collier County. They narrowed the list to three possible locations that had the required 120 contiguous acres needed to create a “Wrigley village” that would include a 15,000-seat stadium and practice fields.
The Cubs have been in Arizona since the 1950s, with the exception of one season when they trained in California. They have outgrown their current Mesa, Ariz., space.
In early November, Ricketts, Kenney and others met with Arizona state officials to discuss possible sites. There’s been no timetable for a decision. The Cubs are able to buy out of their current contract with Mesa and move after the 2011 training camp.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.