An approximately five-year process that included Mesa nearly losing its spring training team and a major bond election concluded on Feb. 12 with the official ribbon cutting for the new Cubs Park.
Located along Rio Salado Parkway adjacent to Riverview Park, the new facility features a slew of amenities for the Chicago Cubs. The complex includes a player development center – one that features a cardiovascular facility and a cafeteria – clubhouses for major- and minor-league players, 12 covered batting tunnels and a half-sized field for infield practice.
Cubs Park’s crown jewel though is a stadium that is reminiscent of Wrigley Field can seat up to 15,000 fans, making it the largest in of its kind in both the Cactus League and the Grapefruit League, which is in Florida.
“Isn’t this fabulous? This is unbelievable,” said Gov. Jan Brewer.
Mayor Scott Smith said the event that led to the stadium’s opening came shortly after his election in 2008 when the Cubs said Naples, Fla., expressed interest in acquiring Chicago’s National League team for its spring training season. From there, Mesa officials negotiated with the team to build a new stadium to replace Hohokam Stadium, one that included a 2010 bond vote in which approximately 60-percent of Mesa’s residents voted in favor to fund up to $99 million for a new stadium.
Smith said the city was essentially underdogs in the fight to keep the team, although District 3 Councilmember Dennis Kavanaugh had a different way of describing the process.
“It’s a testament to a love story between a community, state and a Cubs’ team,” he said.
On the city’s side, Smith said keeping the Cubs in Mesa was necessary due in large part to the economic benefits the team brings in. He said the city receives approximately $138 million during the spring training season, making March Mesa’s “second Christmas.” The revenue stream should increase in 2015 when the Oakland A’s move into a revamped Hohokam.
District 1 Councilmember Dave Richins, whose district encompasses the Cubs Park, added the benefits of it extend to the people who will fill those 15,000 seats.
“People asked why we’re building a stadium for million-dollar players; we’re not; we’re building a stadium for the fans,” he said.
For the Cubs, team Chairman Tom Ricketts and President Theo Epstein said the complex’s features will help the team develop its young core players on its quest toward a championship. The Cubs have not won a World-Series title in more than 100 years, and haven’t made it to the Fall Classic since losing to the Tigers in seven games in 1945.
Keeping the team in Mesa also ensures the team will remain continue to call the city its second home, one it has frequented since 1952.
“The Cubs have been here for 60 years, and we’re excited to be here for 60 more,” Ricketts said.
The first spring training game at Cubs Park is scheduled for Feb. 27 at 1:05 p.m. against the Diamondbacks. Visit cubs.com for more information about the Cactus League schedule and Cubs Park.
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