Mesa voters will decide today on whether the city can build a spring training facility for Major League Baseball’s Chicago Cubs and issue $202 million of revenue bonds for the city’s utilities.
Proposition 420 would allow the city to spend $84 million on the proposed baseball complex on a defunct golf course. The vote is necessary because the city charter requires public approval of any sports facility costing over $1.5 million.
The city’s financial plan for the complex includes the sale of city-owned undeveloped land in Pinal County and an increase in the city’s hotel tax to 5% from the current 3% that could be used to support bonds for the project. The Cubs will finance an adjacent commercial and entertainment district, which is expected to include a baseball museum.
The Cubs have promised to assist Mesa in attracting another MLB tenant to the team’s current spring training facility at city-owned Hohokam Park.
The National League team has trained in Mesa since 1952 and draws the most fans of any of the 15 baseball teams with spring training in Arizona. The new complex would open in 2013.
Meanwhile, if passed, the utility revenue bonds will finance maintenance and expansion of Mesa’s electric, gas, water, and sewer systems. Voters also will be asked to extend an override of state limits on city spending. If the exemption is not approved, Mesa would have to reduce spending by $25 million next year.
Moody’s Investors Service rates Mesa’s $270 million of outstanding general obligation debt at Aa2. The credit is rated AA-plus by Standard & Poor’s.
The city’s utility system revenue bonds are rated AA-minus by Standard & Poor’s and Aa2 by Moody’s.