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Mesa to ask for state aid to keep Cubs

Officials in Mesa will ask the state for help in funding a new spring-training facility for the Chicago Cubs.

The Cubs front office is expected to make a decision by the end of the month about whether to keep spring operations in Mesa or shift them to a new complex near Naples, Florida.

The bill, which is currently being drafted by city officials, would expand the revenues coming to Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority coffers; the authority has funded most of the expansion of spring training in Phoenix. Increased revenues would come from taxes generated by tourism, mostly likely though a new Cactus League ticket tax and an expansion of the Maricopa County car-rental tax, currently one of the highest in the nation. ASTA would then send $80 million of the increased tax revenues to Mesa to build a new spring-training facility; anything left over could be distributed to other municipalities for improvements to existing spring facilities. This is an issue for all of the Cactus League: the Cubs are the best draw in Arizona, and Cubs fans regularly follow the team to away games. If the Cubs lose, the loss would be felt by every Cactus League ballpark.

Mesa officials say this would be a good investment, as private investors would fund development surrounding the complex in an Arizona version of Wrigleyville. Initial response from state officials has been fairly positive, we’re told, since there would be no tax increase for state residents. And we continue to hear the first choice among Cubs officials is to stay in Arizona if the numbers work.

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