You may recall that, last year, the Chicago Cubs and the Arizona State baseball program came forward with this awesome, feel-good plan to share the facilities being built in Mesa, which will be the Cubs’ new Spring Training home in 2014. The city of Mesa could get some extra revenue, the Cubs could get a little extra revenue/save some operational costs, and Arizona State could get state of the art facilities in which to play and train.
Yeah, none of that is going to happen. ASU offered an official statement, formally ending the plan. In relevant part:
After many months of negotiation, ASU regrets that the effort to have the ASU baseball team play in the new Cubs stadium in Mesa has failed. The university approached the talks enthusiastically and readily accepted the deal as originally outlined. But as the new Cubs management changed the original deal points and added new issues to the negotiation, the new terms became far too costly to the university, imposed too many restrictions on ASU’s use of the facility and exposed the university to too great a level of financial liability for the entire complex.
ASU also indicated that the arrangement was now “impossible” because “the changes the Cubs demanded shows that they do not value the partnership with ASU.”
The relationship started to break down over the Summer, when the Cubs and Sun Devils could not agree on how, exactly, the facilities would be shared (there are, after all, a great many overlaps – not only during Spring Training, but throughout the year (recall, the Cubs’ facilities in Mesa aren’t just for Spring Training, it is also a year-round training facility for, among other things, Rookie League and instructional ball)). The Arizona State President called the Cubs “not people of their word,” and talks decelerated from there.
Mesa tried to intervene and resolve the issues as recently as early October, but it was not to be.
Ultimately, it’s unfortunate that things couldn’t be worked out, because it would have been a cool thing. But if it couldn’t be a true win-win for the Cubs – and all indications are that, if ASU had gotten its way, the Cubs would not have had the full enjoyment of the facilities that, let’s not forget, are being built for them, not ASU – moving on is the right thing to do.
It’s interesting that ASU suggests the problems came after the new management – i.e., Theo Epstein and Co. – took over. It’s fair to wonder if the plan was presented in a certain way by Tom Ricketts and Crane Kenney in August/September/Early-October 2011, which is when ASU approved the plan, but was changed on the Cubs’ side once Theo took over and saw how the facilities were going to be used by ASU. It’s conceivable that the Cubs really did pull a late audible on ASU, but that it was the right thing to do: Theo could have come in and said, “whoa, wait a minute. You mean I’m not going to be able to use these facilities whenever I want for our prospects/rehabbing players/etc.? This is a bum deal, and we need to massage this a bit.”
I won’t pretend to know the particularities of the agreement between ASU and the Cubs, but I do know that it was pretty formalized. ASU’s statement included legal buzz phrases like “negotiated the original agreement in good faith,” “changed the original deal points,” and “added new issues,” which all do seem to point in a legal-recourse kind of direction. ASU is probably just trying to publicly preserve its options, but here’s hoping we’re not looking a “breach” and “lawsuit” situation.
It’s also conceivable that this is all just posturing by ASU, and they’d still like to work something out with the Cubs. I have no reason to believe that’s the case, though, so I’ll just take ASU at its word.