Cactus League teams balk at helping fund Cubs stadium

The city council of Mesa, Arizona, agreed last month to put a vote on the November ballot on building a new $84 million spring-training home for the Chicago Cubs, who otherwise were threatening to move to Florida. This isn’t that unusual: Baseball teams move their spring facilities all the time, which makes for lots of opportunities to set up bidding wars for stadium subsidies.

Where it gets interesting is in how Mesa has proposed to fund this one: Partly with a rental-car surcharge, but partly with a leaguewide ticket tax on Cactus League games, on the argument that since the Cubs are the league’s biggest draw, the other teams in the league should chip in to keep them around. (Most economists will tell you that ticket taxes generally come out of team owner pockets, as they’re prevented from raising prices as high as they would otherwise.) The rest of the league, unsurprisingly, is not too thrilled, and several teams are openly opposing a ticket tax to help the Cubs — including Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the rival Chicago White Sox, who play in Glendale.

Mesa Mayor Scott Smith replied: “Is this the same Jerry Reinsdorf that skipped out on Pima County taxpayers who had spent tens of millions of dollars to provide him with a taxpayer-funded stadium, to come to Glendale, where Maricopa County taxpayers provided him a Taj Mahal spring-training facility?” Noting that Reinsdorf also has a publicly subsidized stadium in Chicago — one that he got by threatening to move to Florida — Smith added, “The irony is delicious.”

The Arizona Diamondbacks are opposed to the Mesa deal as well, and baseball blogger Brandon Larrabee can’t help but note that they’re “an interesting addition to the Arizona anti-tax crowd, given that their own stadium tax was so controversial it got a Maricopa County Supervisor shot.” By a crazy guy, admittedly, but if you want to take it as a cautionary tale, be my guest.

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6 comments on “Cactus League teams balk at helping fund Cubs stadium

  1. I’ll say the same thing as I thought when I read this in the paper:

    “Scott Smith can go to hell. He’s just some little stupid turd of a town with a lame baseball club & is forcing others to pay for his crud team”.

  2. I don’t know. I kinda like a Mayor with cojones big enough to call our Reinsdorf for the exact same stuff he’s pulled time and time again. It still sucks, but good for you not letting the owners put their spin on it.

  3. Does the $84 million include infrastructure for the inevitable “ballpark condos” that will be marketed to freezing Cubs fans every winter? I think this is exactly what the Phoenix area needs to finally attract some tourists while simultaneously dealing with their massive housing shortage.

  4. @Greg

    I hope that was sarcasm because on its face you do not know what you are talking about:

    Phoenix has some of the highest ownership (around 30% over national average) and rental vacancy (at least 75% over national average) rates in the country.

  5. floormaster – since you think I wasn’t being sarcastic, I’m surprised you didn’t also provide me with a link showing that Arizona already has a tourism industry.

    (in other words, yes I’m being completely sarcastic)

  6. 15-16 spring training home games a year…$84 million dollars…makes perfect sense to me! That’s almost NFL-level cost/benefits.

    Because no one would ever go to Arizona in March (spring break, spectacular weather) if the Cubbies didn’t come.

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