The Chicago Cubs hit a home run at the polls this week, but actually building their new complex could push the team into extra innings.
After being consumed with winning an election, Mesa and the team now must focus on many details that include finalizing a site plan for the $99 million project, hiring a design team, selecting a contractor and going through about 18 months of construction.
While the goal is to open the complex in time for spring training in 2013, those involved acknowledge the challenges in compressing so much work into so little time.
“It’s possible. Is it absolutely necessary? No,” Mayor Scott Smith said. “I think what the Cubs and the city have agreed to is that we’re going to shoot for that but we’re not going to be tied to a specific deadline to be there because we want to be sure that we don’t trade quality for timing.”
Construction needs to start by the summer to open for spring training in 2013, Smith said, which leaves only six to eight months for finalizing plans and mobilizing construction efforts. Smith said it’s too early to know when the complex will open at the current Riverview Golf Course site, but that it should easily be ready for fall league games of 2013.
The Cubs are fine staying at Fitch Park and Hohokam Stadium one extra year if necessary, he said.
The team wants to move quickly without rushing the effort, said Mike Lufrano, the Cubs’ general counsel.
“We would like to be in the stadium by opening day of spring 2013, but it’s most important that we do it right,” Lufrano said.
The team is keeping an eye on costs as it plans the complex, as the Cubs must pay for anything beyond Mesa’s commitment of $84 million. Mesa also has a $15 million cap on related costs like roads, water lines and other improvements to the 125-acre sight at the southeast corner of the Loop 101 and Loop 202.
The team is now working on a site plan that includes a 15,000-thousand seat stadium, practice fields and the team’s year-round headquarters. The Wrigleyville West commercial district would be funded by the team’s owners, the Ricketts family. Feasibility studies show a demand for commercial development there, Lufrano said, but the timing of that is also not known yet.
“Our commitment is to move on it as quickly as we can,” he said.
Site plans will become public once they’re finalized, Lufrano said. That’s likely several months away.
Work on the site plan had slowed considerably in recent weeks as the effort focused on winning Proposition 420, which allows the city to spend more than $1.5 million on a sports complex. Voters approved it Tuesday by 63 percent, which Smith said was a larger margin than he expected.
Another key issue is whether the proposed Waveyard water park is part of the plan — and when it will be determined whether it will be part of the plan. The Waveyard developer has rights to the Riverview site until July 2011, but it has since told Mesa it is focusing on a roughly 20-acre project instead of developing the entire area.
Smith said it’s not an issue that Waveyard hasn’t formally relinquished development rights yet.
“While there isn’t any paperwork, it’s obvious that Waveyard as envisioned under the original agreement is not going to happen,” Smith said. “Everybody is focusing on the next chapter, which is the Cubs spring training and Waveyard sharing the same site.”
About 20 acres are being set aside for Waveyard on the site’s northeast corner. If Waveyard doesn’t happen, the land would be available for some other development or park.
The campaign against Prop. 420 argued construction costs were likely to exceed projections, and that Mesa isn’t legally obligated to abide by its self-imposed caps. Also, voters couldn’t be sure what they were approving because so many specifics weren’t worked out by Election Day, said Bob Kammrath, a Mesa resident and commercial real estate analyst. “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.”