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Cubbies Get a Warm Welcome in Mesa

By Paul Tooher

Don’t blame Mesa, Ariz.

Chicago Cubs fans can find plenty of reasons why their favorite team has failed to win a World Series since 1908. But the Arizona city appears to be doing all it can to help the team achieve its illusive goal.

In fact, it has poured millions of dollars into providing a new spring training complex for the Cubbies to replace HoHoKam Field, which was considered one of the best stadiums in the major leagues, according to Bleacher Report.

The Cubs, who first made Mesa their spring training home in 1952, had threatened to decamp to a location in Florida unless the city agreed to build a new 15,000-seat stadium.

Mesa responded by spending $84 million in public money for the ballpark, several practice fields and a 70,000-square-foot clubhouse that will serve as the Cubs’ Western headquarters.

The city also will spend an additional $7.7 million more to turn next-door Riverview Park into a showplace that will be linked to the ballpark by “Wrigleyville,” a commercial development with a Sheraton hotel, shopping and other amenities.

Meanwhile, the Oakland Athletics, who currently train in Phoenix, will be moving into a redeveloped HoHoKam Park in 2015.

In addition to Mesa, the teams with the best spring training facilities, according to Bleacher Report, include the New York Yankees’ George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, the second largest metropolitan area in Florida; the Los Angeles Angels’ Tempe Diablo Stadium, in Tempe, Ariz.; the San Francisco Giants’ Scottsdale Stadium, in Scottsdale, Ariz.; Peoria Sports Complex, shared by the San Diego Padres and the Seattle Mariners, in Peoria, Ariz.; the Boston Red Sox’s JetBlue Park at Fenway South, in Ft. Myers, Fla.; Camelback Ranch, shared by the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago White Sox, in Phoenix; the Baltimore Orioles’ Ed Sullivan Stadium, in Sarasota, Fla.; the Philadelphia Phillies’ Bright House Field, in Clearwater, Fla. and the Atlanta Braves’ Champion Stadium, in Kissimmee, Fla.

Aside from civic pride, does it make economic sense for a community to spend millions on spring training facilities?

Apparently not, according to one economist who studied the matter.

“There’s absolutely no need for any community to invest in a sports team,” said Philip Porter, a sports economist at University of South Florida in Tampa,

According to Porter, “nothing changes” when a team skips town. Sales tax, property values, and the size of the tax base generally remain at comparable levels “That finding is so universal as to be irrefutable,” Porter says.

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