Will Cubs Stay in Mesa?
There has been a lot of talk out here this Spring about if and when the Cubs will leave Mesa.
I think it's 100% likely the Cubs will leave Mesa after 2016 (when their contract expires), 80% likely they will leave after 2011 and pay the $4M+ buy-out, and 75% likely that whenever they do leave Mesa they will stay in AZ and move into a new one-team state-of-the-art facility, probably somewhere in the East Valley
The Cubs want out of Mesa because Fitch Park is limited to only 4-1/2 fields, and has less-than-satisfactory practice facilities (the Cubs want a large enclosed batting cage complex and an enclosed ten-pack bullpen) and a smallish clubhouse that cannot be expanded without adding a second floor, and because HoHoKam Park is a 1/2-mile away from Fitch Park.
The Giants (Scottsdale) and the A's (Phoenix Papago Park) have similar-type inferior arrangements as the Cubs, and so the Giants & A's will probably want to move to a combined facility ASAP, and it's only a matter of a short period of time before the Rockies and Diamondbacks move from Tucson to Maricopa County, and when they do, they will want new state-of-the art facilities (or a combined facility), too.
So the Cubs have to make sure they get the best deal out there, and if they wait until 2016, it might be too late, and the Cubs will get the left-overs.
Gilbert's "Field of Dreams"--a retro softball park that features recreations of Wrigley Field, Ebbets Field, Fenway Park, etc--is on a large track of land near the old Williams AFB in close proximity to the new east-side 202 freeway and would be a definite possible site for a new facility, as would a location on the Salt River-Pima Indian Reservation, possibly near where the 202 & 101 freeways intersect near the Arizona Casino on McKellips Road east of Scottsdale and north of Mesa.
I have talked to several people connected with the Ho Ho Kam and the Cubs over the past year, and it is pretty clear that the Cubs are dissatisfied and want a new facility with a minor league complex that includes at least six full fields, and where the main Spring Training stadium & the minor league complex are on one site, and the Cubs would probably also like a larger Spring Training Park (perhaps 15,000 capacity) with some ultra-premium seating. That just won't work in downtown Mesa.
The one "wild card" is what the new Cubs owners (presumably the Ricketts people) will want to do. It's possible they might prefer a Florida Minor League Complex & Spring Training deal, probably somewhere in the middle of the state near Orlando. Nobody knows what they're going to want to do about that yet, but keep in mind that GM Jim Hendry, Scouting Director Tim Wilken, and Player Development Director Oneri Fleita are all Florida people (Hendry and Wilken were HS buddies in Dunedin, and Fleita is a Cuban-American from Miami), so if they are asked, they would probably much prefer to move the Cubs ST & Minor League operations from Arizona to Florida.
Moving to Florida would also put the Cubs Minor League complex & Player Development HQ in closer proximity to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela, where the Cubs have expanded their scouting & player development tentacles in the last few years (adding a second team in the DSL and a Dominican Instructional League team).