Banks joins Ricketts for Mesa campaign
Cubs chairman gets a hand drumming up support for Prop 420
Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, joined Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts to campaign to keep the team in Mesa, Ariz.
Banks and Ricketts were in Mesa on Monday, trying to rally support for Proposition 420, which would allow the city of Mesa to spend up to $99 million on a new Spring Training facility for the Cubs. Voters will decide on the Nov. 2 ballot.
The money includes $84 million for a stadium, practice fields and training facilities and $15 million for infrastructure. The Cubs' owners would fund a "Wrigleyville West" retail district around the complex, which would be built at the current Riverview Park site.
Banks, a Hall of Famer who played for the team from 1953-71, said he recalled riding a train to the Cubs' Spring Training facility in Mesa in '53 but missed his stop. The team's traveling secretary, Bob Lewis, was waiting at the depot for Banks and when the train went by with the shortstop still on it, he chased it down with his car.
"They stopped the train," Banks told reporters in Mesa on Monday. "I didn't know where I was. I thought, 'Why am I here?' Mesa was a very small community. It's not anymore. It's grown and changed."
If Proposition 420 passes, the Cubs hope to be in their new facility in 2013.
"We don't really have a Plan B," said Mike Lufrano, the Cubs' senior vice president of community affairs and general counsel. "We want to stay in Mesa. We've worked hard on this plan."
The Cubs say they've outgrown the current Mesa sites at HoHoKam Park and Fitch Park and that they are outdated. A study has shown that the team brings in $138 million annually to the Phoenix area.
The city of Mesa will pay for the facility by tapping into a $60 million enterprise fund. Mesa officials say they will sell large land holdings in Pinal County to replenish the fund. Other sources for money include a hotel bed tax and taxes from the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.