By DAVID MOULTON
It’s easy for a huge story to get lost in the shuffle of Tiger Woods and the holidays. For the past two months there have been various reports concerning the Chicago Cubs’ potential spring training move to Collier County.
After creating and spearheading the movement this past spring and summer, I’ve intentionally written infrequently about what is now Project Home Run. It was my hope that by backing off, once I did write about the Cubs’ potential move to Naples again, that most of you would listen. I may not be able to pick a football game this year but when it concerns the Cubs, my information and insight has been spot on.
So if I may, it is as clear as a beautiful Southwest Florida spring training day what is going on here. The Cubs are far more enamored with Naples than Arizona. It’s obvious. From what they’ve said about Naples to what they haven’t said about Arizona. Which is anything. With the exception of their yearly organizational meetings in Mesa immediately following the World Series, the Cubs’ silence about the desert speaks volumes. Mesa and Arizona know it too. For months they spoke badly of Florida and scoffed at even the idea that the Cubs would leave. Now they are humble. And with good reason.
Think about what the Cubs have done and said in the first two weeks of this month. They flew to Tallahassee to meet with Gov. Charlie Crist (the Ricketts family – the new team owners – has never traveled to meet with Arizona officials). After that meeting they tipped their hand for the first time.
CEO Crane Kenney openly spoke of moving their Class A franchise from Daytona to Naples. That’s not something you go public with unless you are already in the “planning” stages. Then someone in the Cubs organization leaked that they felt the club wanted to make a decision about spring training within 60 days. Well considering that they are only engaged with the Naples group at present time (Craig Bouchard of Esmark and Fifth Avenue Advisors), Hmmm… I wonder what direction they are leaning?
Finally, in a stunning admission of just how “all in” the Cubs are toward the Collier County move, owner Tom Ricketts told the Chicago Tribune that they would “invest” in the Naples project.
A Chicago Tribune columnist believes the new Cubs owner will move spring training to Naples
By invest he meant money out of his own pocket by the way. That’s how much the Ricketts believe in and WANT this deal to happen!
My hope is that by now everyone in Collier County realizes that what I said two months ago was right. This is your deal to screw up. In fact, there appears to be only one way Collier County could stop the Cubs from moving to Naples Apathy. The only reason the Ricketts family will walk away from Naples is if the County (leaders and citizens) gives them the impression, that this is not that big of a deal. Think about it: The family is on the verge of making a bold move that will change many aspects of the organization. Change is exciting but it also brings criticism and the fear of the unknown. The Ricketts family can handle the criticism if they KNOW that they’re wanted. Really wanted.
So to review, the Cubs are going to leave Arizona for Naples (in 2012 or 2013), build a 15,000-seat stadium on 120 acres near Interstate 75, without one penny of property or sales taxes being raised. The Cubs, Esmark and the state ofFlorida have committed to “invest” in the project to make it happen. One-thousand jobs will be generated in the short-term and the yearly economic impact is conservatively estimated at $50 million per year.
All you have to do is get behind it. Now.
For once, make some noise. Let your commissioners know they need to get behind Project Home Run. Go to www.floridacubs.com and sign up to support the effort. Organize a petition drive, which ends with a community event that screams, “We Want the Cubs.” Just do something!
This is no longer a series of columns. This is as real as real gets.
In “Field of Dreams” the line was, “If you build it, he will come.” For Project Home Run the line is, “If you want them, they will come.”
David Moulton is co-host of “Miller and Moulton in the Afternoon.” The show airs weekdays 2-7 PM on AM 770/ESPN. His column runs every Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.