Cost for taxpayer-funded Cubs’ stadium must be capped

by Carrie Ann Sitren
Goldwater Institute

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.

Learn More:

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


  1. These clubs find plenty of money to sign players for $10-$20-$30-$40-$50 MILLION and then cry poormouth to make taxpayers finance their buildings?

    There is an established pattern and history of stadiums across the nation not paying back their costs, just saddled taxpayers with long term debt and interest obligations, and colluding politicians aren’t curbing this so the taxpayers have to put a STOP to it – THE PEOPLE.

    The pampered owners will figure out how to operate in the private sector or fold. Simple.

  2. Why must the costs be “capped”? Why would Goldwater say something like that?

    It’s because Goldwater doesn’t have the b*lls anymore to support the free market.

    The Cubs stadium costs should have NO CAP other than what private investors are willing to bear.

    However, since the Cubs stadium is being built as a socialist program, Goldwater is calling for a cap.

    You’d think Goldwater should call for the project to be STOPPED or to be PRIVATIZED, but no, Goldwater is playing its new status as Eunich and whining about how MUCH socialism is involved in the project, rather than opposing the socialism.

    I hate to tell you but any Republicans who do not stand up to OPPOSE SOCIALISM are, by definition, NOT conservative. They’re libs.

  3. This is a great deal for Mesa and the Phoenix area. No increase in sales, property or income tax for area residents unless they choose to live in hotels.
    Visitors will pay for the stadium and the local residents and businesses will benefit from the many millions of dollars that even more Cubs fans will spend in their city.

  4. Rosco P Coltrane says

    An increase in hotel tax just means fewer people will stay in Mesa hotels.

    Don’t we still have a statewide rental car tax to support some stadium boondoggle (can’t remember – could be wrong)? Ever have your car break down and need a rental car here?

  5. @Darell, there are two flaws in your post.

    #1 in the ABSENCE of the stadium taxes would have DECREASED. Therefore, it is a tax increase

    #2 it only works if the cost of the bonds can be offset by the revenue generated by the stadium. If it can’t, then taxes will increase again.

    #3 There’s the opportunity cost as to how those same dollars could have been invested by the private economy in such things like businesses that bring jobs. So, we forgo real jobs so people can get hired to sell hotdogs and beer at the socialist stadium!


  6. @ Roscoe P. Yes, I have. The effective tax rate on rental cars in Phoenix (at the airport at least) is 50%.


  7. GI not fact checking says

    Come on Goldwater, you lose credibility with posts like this. There is a cap. It’s $84 million for the stadium and $15 million for infrastructure.

    Observe-if the Cubs leave they take millions in tax revenue with them to Florida.

    The Mesa plan is to use non-revenue producing farm land in Pinal County, sold over 20 years, to build a stadium that will produce millions in revenue a year for at least the next 3 decades.

    There are much greater intangible benefits than the seasonal jobs. The millions in economic activity props up our tourism industry along with many other sectors.

    This deal has no sales taxes, no property taxes, and no general fund money.

  8. The stadium numbers always look superdeedo and NEVER pan out.

  9. What’re AZ’s unemployment figures recently? More taxes to pay for facilities the population won’t be able to afford to frequent? What’s the tickets for regular sports right now? Guaranteed they’re DOWN. Luxury items get dumped FIRST out of the budget.

    Tax cuts EXPIRE in a few months. Next year will be hell for a whole new swath of people, shoved by the greedy Democrats over the edge.

  10. GI not fact checking says

    A cap is a cap.

    Spring training isn’t for local residents although we all enjoy the game. It is to bring tourists in from out of state. Luckily, even in a down economy the people have kept coming. We need them coming here to our state and can’t do things like sending the number one draw to Florida.

  11. More corporate welfarism

  12. Matt a Mesa Resident says

    As a Mesa resident I want the Cubs in Mesa!

    I voted for a new City Council two year ago, one that I could trust. So why not put my trust in Alex Finter, Dina Higgins, Dave Richin, and Scott Smith? I have no reason to not trust them. I have heard about the heated discussions that have gone on behind closed doors and how they have fought to keep and cap the amount for the stadium where it is at.

    The Glendale stadium location is no comparison to this location, there is no infrastructure to bring in and unlike Scottsdale we don’t have to improve roads on the Reservation. So Goldwater Institute please compare apples to apples and not apples to oranges.

    Mesa’s property tax won’t go up, the city will pay the bonds from the sale of water farm that Mesa can’t even use and get no revenue from. That is smart planning taking an asset that doesn’t perform and turning an asset into one that performs.

    This is the Cubs “home” they operate in Mesa year round, they are not like the other spring training teams that come and go with the season. They are just like a Boeing, or any other major business in the community, they create jobs and bring revenue to Mesa. Revenues that far exceed the cost to build a stadium that everybody will be able to use not just the Cubs.

    This is not about taxes but about Mesa keeping a tax generating revenue source. The taxes generated pay for the things the citizens want and demand in a community.

    Mesa voters don’t be like the Downtown Mesa Association and work the destroy Mesa, but let’s take what we have and build upon it, the Cubs are an asset not a liability.

    We are not Glendale, we are not Scottsdale and we certainly aren’t in New York. By the way Goldwater Institute there is a difference between the East Coast and the West Coast, so next time use a study that was done in the West. I don’t want to be like those in the East.


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