The Hohokams, a group of Mesa, Arizona businessmen who raise money each year for local youth and community organizations by helping to manage operations at the Cubs' spring training home, will have to re-negotiate their decade-old contract with the city of Mesa.
The city is looking to capture a bigger slice of revenues generated by the Cubs through stadium concessions and sponsorships.
The Arizona Republic reported on the situation Friday:
The move was necessary because of continued deficits from yearly operations and long-term debt-service payments on a financing agreement that paid for the reconstruction of Hohokam Stadium a decade ago...The Hohokams' myriad duties around Hohokam Stadium include working as ushers, managing ticket sales, the press box, parking, program production and sales, stadium security, and portions of the food service.
"We want to work with the Hohokams. They've been an important part of spring training for the last 50 years," said Bob Huhn, a city spokesman. "The city hopes to maximize the money retained to improve the facility and enhance the experience."
The Mesa Hohokams...said they operated at a deficit last year after spending $600,000 on new digital scoreboards, installing new padding on the outfield walls to prevent potential injuries to players, and installing a shade structure at nearby Fitch Park for Chicago Cubs minor leaguers.
"It's obvious the city needs more revenue. The city is hemorrhaging red ink left and right," said Fernando Guerrero Jr., head of the Hohokams.
Mesa has no property tax and is heavily-dependent on slumping sales tax revenues. It must cut $12.5 million in spending during the next 18 months...
Guerrero said the Hohokams have "no choice" but to re-open negotiations with the city. Mesa was required to give the group one year advance notice to terminate the agreement, so any changes in dividing revenues or stadium operations would occur in 2009.
The organization has helped host Cactus League games in Mesa since the early 1950s, when rancher Dwight Patterson, who started the organization with 34 other local businessmen, convinced Cubs owner P.K. Wrigley to move the team's spring training activities to Arizona from Catalina Island, California.
The news here, I think, is not that the Hohokams' changing relationship with the city of Mesa will affect the experience of fans who travel to see the Cubs in the spring. (It doesn't seem that it will.) The news is that the allure of the Cubs is so powerful--the city's Cactus League revenues were up 26% last season to $5.6MM--that Mesa sees the team as an obvious source of relief from its own, serious financial woes.