Holy cow, the Cubs actually won in Mesa.
Voters easily passed a proposition for a new spring training complex that will keep the team in Mesa for at least 30 years.
About 63 percent of voters OK'd Mesa's plan for an $84 million complex in northwest Mesa that will open in 2013. The Cubs say the state-of-the-art training facilities are vital to the team breaking its 102-year losing streak and winning a World Series.
"The Cubs have been in Mesa for close to 50 years," Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts said Tuesday night in Mesa. "We'd like to stay in Mesa for another 50 years and we look forward to taking what is a truly great spring training experience and turning in into the most remarkable spring training experience ever."
Cubs supporters gathered at the Hilton Phoenix East Mesa Hotel to watch election results come in, munching on Chicago-style deep dish pizza flown in from the Windy City.
Supporters said they expected a victory but not by such a comfortable margin given the electoral mood across the U.S. Mayor Scott Smith said when he spoke with many voters who he suspected would oppose the measure, they supported it after hearing the details.
"I didn't see the overall anger at government to this issue," Smith said. "That tells you people saw this as a community issue and not a national issue."
Proposition 420 authorizes the city to spend more than $1.5 million on a sporting facility. About 58 percent of voters also approved Question 2, which boosts the city's hotel tax from 3 percent to 5 percent. The additional funds will go toward the complex and citywide tourism promotion. The city has said it will not need to raise property or sales taxes.
The complex would replace about 125 acres of ball fields and a golf course at Riverview Park, and include a privately-funded Wrigleyville West developed by the Chicago family that owns the Cubs, the Ricketts.
Tuesday's vote ends more than a year of uncertainty, as the Cubs had entertained a bid for a new complex in Naples, Fla. The city's effort for statewide funding fell apart at the Legislature this spring, and the plan often changed as the city struggled to find funding. This fall, Mesa said it would sell thousands of acres of land in Pinal County that it bought for water rights, but no longer needs after securing other sources. Many times, supporters feared the effort was doomed and the Cactus League's most-attended team would bolt to Florida.
"It looked like sudden death," said Robert Brinton, immediate past president of the Cactus League. "We weren't going to win another one, we were out of the game, and here we won the World Series."
The Cubs generate $138 million a year statewide, according to a Mesa-commissioned study. The city acknowledges much of that leaves Mesa because of a lack of businesses around the current facilities, but says more of that will stay in the city with the new complex.
Opponents argued the complex could end up costing more than promised, saying there's no legal limit to what the city can spend.
"That's still our view," said Bob Kammrath, who headed an anti-Prop. 420 campaign. "But of course, we won't know that for sure for a couple of years."
Kammrath noted the Cubs haven't finalized a deal for the Riverview land, as it is tied up until July 2011 for the proposed Waveyard water park. Waveyard officials have tentatively agreed to scale back their project to make room for the Cubs. The city, the Cubs and Waveyard are working to accommodate each other, with many details left until after the election.
"One of our objections going into this, of course, is there were a lot of loose ends, things that were undecided and there still are things that are undecided," Kammrath said. "But I guess the feeling of most of the voters is they would fall into place in the next few months. Whether they do or not, we'll see."
Smith said while Mesa voters are often known for rejecting things on election day - including an Arizona Cardinals stadium about a decade ago - this proposal was more thought-out.
"You could tell that people really studied this issue," Smith said. "They cared about their community. They looked at it. They thought about it and they understood what we were offering."