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Cubs nearing decision on spring home

Cubs nearing decision on spring home

CHICAGO -- The Cubs are close to making a decision regarding their Spring Training home.

Cubs president Crane Kenney was in Arizona this week to attend the Major League Baseball owners meetings, and met with Mesa, Ariz., officials on Wednesday. He was expected back in Chicago for the weekend Cubs Convention, when he would meet with the team's new owners, the Ricketts family, to discuss whether they will keep the team in Mesa or move to Florida.

Mesa city manager Chris Brady told the East Valley Tribune that he was told the Cubs' board of directors will make a decision on Friday after reviewing proposals.

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"What we're being told is they'll make a decision then," Brady told the newspaper. "We don't know when that announcement will be."

The Cubs have been considering sites in Mesa and near Naples, Fla., in Collier County. The current facility in Mesa is outdated, and the Cubs are looking for 120 acres of land to accommodate a 15,000-seat stadium, six practice fields and an upgraded training facility as well as space for hotels and restaurants to create a Wrigley-like village. The price tag for the team's complex would be about $80 million.

"We've been at this now for almost a year with the Mesa folks, and seven or eight months with the folks in Naples," Kenney said Wednesday in Arizona. "So it's time to kind of put something concrete in front of our board and get their opinion."

That most likely will happen on Friday in Chicago.

The Ricketts family, which took control of the Cubs in late October, has traveled to both Arizona and Florida to consider possible sites. If the Cubs do move to Florida, they would be reversing a trend. Since 2003, four teams have relocated their spring bases from Florida to Arizona, and the Cincinnati Reds will become the fifth when they join the Cleveland Indians in Goodyear, Ariz., next month.

"Naples hasn't had Spring Training baseball," Kenney said. "It's obviously a very strong -- from an economic standpoint -- affluent market, an attractive market if you're talking about business development. It's proximity to the Dominican Republic and Cuba and everything else that's happening is also a feature that's important."

Craig Bouchard, an executive with Chicago-based Esmark, Inc., who is one of the leaders of the Naples effort, said he expected the Cubs to give the winning community time to hold exclusive negotiations to work out a more formal agreement.

The Cubs first trained in Mesa in 1952, and have been at the current site since 1979.

"We have 57 years here, I think, interrupted by only one season where we played in California," Kenney said. "It's very important. In a lot of ways, tradition is what the Cubs' organization is all about. So it's a very important factor, and I think that will weigh into the equation as the [new owners] consider everything."

The Florida group has narrowed its potential sites to two outside of Naples. Mesa mayor Scott Smith said he and the Cubs have two possible locations near the Loop 202 Freeway in east Mesa.

Mesa is working with the Arizona legislature on a bill that would fund the complex with tourism tax revenue. The Florida proposal also will rely on tourism revenue by taxing hotel stays. Both the Arizona and Florida stadiums and parking areas would be publicly owned.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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