Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cubs, Waveyard could share site at Mesa golf course

A scaled-back Waveyard water park could be built on the present site of Riverview Golf Course next to a new Chicago Cubs spring-training stadium, the Mesa City Council learned Thursday morning.

The council agreed to let the Cubs focus on Riverview as their preferred site, leaving two others - one in northeast Mesa and one downtown - in the dust.

This latest twist in two long and convoluted stories - one involving Waveyard, the other the Cubs - may transform the two entities into one intertwined strand of Mesa's DNA.

The possibility of Waveyard and the Cubs splitting the golf course had seemed dead until Thursday. Waveyard, which has had trouble financing its proposed $250 million sports-themed resort, proposed a joint development with the Cubs last spring, but the Cubs said no.

After Waveyard made the offer, the Cubs became interested in the golf course and four nearby ballfields as a possible site for a stadium, practice facilities, baseball offices and a "Wrigleyville West" retail complex and tourist attraction.

And as the Cubs' interest in the land grew, Mesa seemed to become increasingly impatient with the fact that Waveyard has dibs on the property until next July, when it either has to buy the site or go away.

Mesa, battling to keep its cherished big-league team from bolting to Florida, has promised to spend $84 million for the baseball part of the complex; Wrigleyville would be privately financed.

Voters will decide Nov. 2 whether to allow the city to spend the money, which would come from a fund generated by Mesa's utilities and other business ventures.

Thursday's decision to focus on Riverview, near the junction of Loop 101 and Red Mountain Loop 202, removes one of the big unknowns that had been looming as the election neared.

Now the big question is how, or even whether, both Waveyard and the Cubs can coexist on the approximately 125 acres.

Mayor Scott Smith emphasized that it would not be a joint venture between the Cubs and Waveyard.

"We'll actually pursue two completely separate deals, one with the Cubs, one with Waveyard, and see if it works," Smith told The Arizona Republic.

"It's not a joint venture between anybody because the city owns the land, and we can easily just say here, this is your portion, and here, this is your portion, and here, this is the city's portion," Smith said. But the boundary between those areas would be almost invisible, creating a seamless tourism and recreation destination.

Mike Lufrano, senior vice president and general counsel for the Cubs, said the team needs to know more before endorsing the idea.

"We're open to hearing what they have to say and what their thinking is. We just want to be a good partner for the city," Lufrano said. "As I understand it, they've talked about a very scaled-back wave park facility, and I just need to understand better what it is they're talking about."

Jerry Hug and Richard Mladick, the founders of Scottsdale-based Waveyard Development LLC, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Council members promised Thursday that Riverview Park, a popular family destination just east of the golf course, would remain intact - and possibly be upgraded - even if the Cubs and Waveyard move in next door.

Waveyard announced in early 2007 that it wanted to build a mixed-use, sports-themed resort in Mesa and won voter approval later that year. The original plan called for the resort to open this past January.

After the recession clobbered the financial markets, Waveyard received another 18 months to buy the golf course. But Mesa had grown increasingly skeptical about the company's chances of meeting its new July 2011 deadline; Smith and City Manager Chris Brady had said it was likely Mesa would talk with Waveyard about stepping aside if it became obvious the project wouldn't make it.

In recent discussions with the city, Smith said, Waveyard has admitted "that one way or another, we need to move forward."

by Gary Nelson The Arizona Republic Sept. 16, 2010 01:02 PM

Cubs, Waveyard could share site at Mesa golf course

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