The Chicago Cubs say they plan to build their spring training complex in Mesa before they work on a commercial district that's part of the project.
The Wrigleyville West component was key to what the team and the city pitched to voters who approved the project in November, but Cubs board member Todd Ricketts said his organization needs to make the stadium its priority.
"I'd like to get the stadium and the facilities built and then we can focus on the commercial side," Ricketts said.
The economy will play a role in the timing. Ricketts said it wouldn't make sense to build a project unless shops and restaurants are willing to move in.
Ricketts met with the East Valley Tribune's editorial board recently to discuss the project and the team's larger charitable efforts in the Valley. Construction should begin late this year, with an opening sometime in 2013. Ricketts said it's unclear if the stadium will debut in time for spring training that year.
He noted the just-opened complex shared by the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies was built in 15 months, but he said the Cubs don't want to rush the project. Ricketts said he toured the complex and liked it, but he wants to apply some lessons from that project.
"Talking to some of the guys there, they were like, ‘Maybe we could have thought through a few of the things better if we'd had more time,'" Ricketts said. "It's always a tradeoff between trying to get it done and trying to do it right. We're trying to find that right balance."
The Cubs complex in northeast Mesa will include a field with the same dimensions of Chicago's famed Wrigley Field, Ricketts said. The team may use some design cues from Wrigley, he said, but won't build a replica. The facility won't be as lavish as some new Cactus League parks because the Cubs want to focus more on the fundamentals: training the team to win.
"Ours might be a little more businesslike in its layout and design," Ricketts said.
Mesa will build the project and expects to select a design team in March that will turn a conceptual plan into something specific, City Manager Chris Brady said. Mesa could break ground by year's end on roughly 100 acres that is now Riverview Park.
The area around the lake will remain a park, but Brady said the lake will have to be rebuilt because of a leaky lining. Mesa will involve residents in rebuilding the lake and incorporating improvements, Brady said.
"Ultimately, we're going to try to maintain as much of the park as possible," Brady said.
The city has $84 million for the complex and $15 million for related infrastructure work. The Cubs are responsible for any costs beyond that.
The Wrigleyville West component will be financed by the team's owners, the Ricketts family. The city has touted the commercial element as a way to keep more tourism dollars in the city instead of to surrounding communities. The current Hohokam Stadium has no shops around it - it's across from a cemetery - but the city figures hotels, stores and restaurants at the site will boost city revenue.
Ricketts said he feels the economy is improving, but he didn't offer a timeline for Wrigleyville West. The team is hoping some of the restaurants will be offshoots of fan favorites that surround Wrigley Field, he said.
The team also plans to become more involved in the community and to increase charitable activities, Ricketts said. He and his family bought the team in 2009, and Ricketts said they want charitable funds of $1.5 million a year to reach $4 million or more.