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Cubs president discusses state of team

Cubs president discusses state of team

MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs are expected to name their preferred Spring Training site in two weeks, finish the proposed Triangle building by 2014, and be able to add players at the Trade Deadline if needed. And if Lou Piniella wants to stay, the team could have what team president Crane Kenney called an "interesting conversation."

Kenney met Thursday at HoHoKam Park with the media to deliver a state of the Cubs address and discuss a variety of topics.

• Spring Training: The Ricketts family, which took over ownership in late October, was to meet Thursday to talk about the various sites being considered in east Mesa. Kenney said they've been assured by the mayor of Mesa and Arizona legislators that the financing will go through.

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Kenney said the plan for the Cubs' facility can be managed through the Mesa property tax referendum that will happen in November and the car rental tax. The proposed Cactus League ticket surcharge is not needed for what the Cubs are building, he said.

The team needs $84 million to build the facility. A portion of that comes from the city of Mesa, a portion comes from the state and a portion comes from the Cubs.

Kenney said he hopes the Cubs will identify the site in east Mesa in the next 14 days. The Cubs are paying for the land and all the non-baseball development, which is designed as a proposed "Wrigleyville West." That would include a hotel, retail and entertainment district around the ballpark and would have a year-round appeal, he said.

Even if the referendum passes in November, Kenney expected the Cubs would play two more years at their current site in Mesa.

• Free agents: What will the Cubs do with Derrek Lee and Ted Lilly, who are in the last year of their contracts? "That will be down the road, and that will be mostly [GM] Jim [Hendry]," Kenney said.

• Lou Piniella: This is the last season on his contract. Kenney said they will talk at some point.

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"If he feels well and wants to keep going, we'll have an interesting conversation," Kenney said. "He's done a great job. He's raised the bar and that's a little bit of the burden we all carry now. As I tell everybody in our organization, it's a lot better than being picked to finish fourth or fifth and having everybody talk about failure all the time."

• Triangle building: The plan is to develop the land west of Wrigley Field along Clark Street, and Kenney said the Ricketts family is still evaluating what components should go into the six-story building. It could house a restaurant, offices, retail and space for the team. Kenney said they're halfway through finalizing those plans. The goal is to complete it by 2014, which is the 100-year anniversary of Wrigley Field. The project could cost $100 million and Kenney said they've had interest from hotels and other companies that want to be part of the project.

• Wrigley Field: The men's and women's restrooms on the concourse level have been renovated. The scoreboard is being re-faced. The Sheffield Grill will be open to the public year-round and the menu will change. The batting tunnel in the outfield is being turned into a lounge and there will be a one-way window in which fans can watch players hit. There's $100 million budgeted for restoration and renovation of the stadium.

• Player development: The Cubs have added an academy in the Dominican Republic and expanded their scouting internationally to try and develop players in the system. The future is bright with players like Andrew Cashner, Brett Jackson, Starlin Castro and Tyler Colvin in the system. Kenney said that's a credit to people in the organization like Tim Wilken, Paul Weaver and Jose Serra, among others.

• Team payroll: Kenney said the team's finances have improved because the Ricketts family is not putting a penny in their pockets, but re-investing all profits into the Cubs and the facilities.

"Every time we can stage a concert or a hockey game or a football game or bring a new marketing partner in or find a way to grow the business, it directly impacts what we can do on the field and with the facility," Kenney said.

If the Cubs need to make a player move by the Trade Deadline, Kenney said Hendry should have funds.

• Ticket prices: They'll be determined year-to-year. Kenney said they had at least 97 percent of their season ticket holders renew. The Cubs were able to add 200 bleacher seats for season ticket holders and 700 more seats were made available that had been allocated to the former owners, the Tribune Co.

The Cubs are looking for other ways to get revenue, such as selling advertising behind the left-field bleachers. That area does not interfere with the Cubs' rooftop partners.

"We have to keep reinventing ourselves," Kenney said. "If all you do is rely on ticket prices, you'll run into a tough reality."

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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