Last week in the Arizona Republic, I urged Mesa to provide details of its plan to pay for a new spring training stadium for the Chicago Cubs. A day later, the city released a page and a half of bullet points outlining those “details.” Unfortunately, that list raises even more red flags.
The city has signed a non-binding agreement to build a new $84 million stadium for the Chicago baseball team. In Mesa, voter approval is needed before the city can spend more than $1.5 million, so Proposition 420, which would authorize this spending, is on the Nov. 2 election ballot. But neither Prop. 420, nor the city’s agreement, spell out what a new stadium will actually cost Mesa residents, or what Mesa taxpayers will get from the Cubs in exchange.
The bullet points issued last week outline Mesa’s costs at around $100 million. The list confirms expected construction costs for the stadium and training fields at $84 million, and estimates another $15 million will be needed for parking and other infrastructure. On top of that, the city will help to pay for future, unnamed improvements to the training complex. In exchange, the Cubs would provide “benefits to be determined” and pay rent in some unknown amount.
Mesa residents should demand to know more, including a firm limit to all of the costs and specific commitments from the team that will directly benefit the public. The New York Times reported on Sept. 7, 2010, “With more than four decades of evidence to back them up, economists almost uniformly agree that publicly financed stadiums rarely pay for themselves.” Arizona cities are no strangers to the prospect of money-losing sports stadiums. Glendale officials still haven’t figured out what to do with the $180 million taxpayer-funded arena built for the Phoenix Coyotes hockey team which, like the Cubs, has threatened to move out of state.
Mesa voters are in control of the game with Proposition 420 for Cubs baseball. They should refuse to play blindfolded.
Carrie Ann Sitren is an attorney with the Goldwater Institute Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation.
Goldwater Institute: Proposals to fund new Cubs stadium risk constitutional violations
Arizona Republic: Cubs plan needs more specifics before voters say yes
City of Mesa: Prop. 420