“If we can’t get better here we can’t get better anywhere” was 'the promise' from the lips of Chicago Cubs President Theo Epstein at yesterday's dedication of the the Cubs new $99 million state-of-the-art ballpark and training facility in Mesa, Arizona.
Others cheering on the team at the ribbon-cutting ceremony were Cubs board members Tom and Laura Ricketts, front office executives Crane Kenney and Hall of Fame pitcher Fergie Jenkins who were joined a host of State and City officials including Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, City Manager Chris Brady and others.
More encouraging words were heard from Tom Ricketts who said “This new ballpark and player development facility will allow our players to better train and compete to achieve our goal of winning a World Championship.”
The 146-acre site, the first and largest of its kind in the Cactus League, features some of the same elements of Wrigley Field including the brick wall behind home plate, the green scoreboard with the Wrigley Field-style clock, arched steel work on the light standards and cantilevered roofs. In addition, there's a replica of the Wrigley Field Marquee, located in the main concourse, where fans can pose for a photo with their own name digitally displayed on the sign.
Of course, the 15,000-seat ballpark goes way beyond the humble WF carryovers. Throughout the bowl, there are a number of party and patio decks that allow fans and groups to take in different views and experiences of the action on the field. In left field, the Cubs have partnered with Budweiser to unveil a new EIGHTEEN | 76 viewing area, which features bleachers and high-top tables to remind fans of the Wrigley Field Budweiser Bleachers experience. There are also party decks located on the first and third base sides of the ballpark. Near the right field gate, there will be a party/tent bar for fans who want to watch the game from above the outfield playing area. Another perk, inside the seating bowl, more than 60 percent of the seats are shaded from the Valley sun though fans looking to bask in the sunlight can purchase general admission lawn tickets to watch the game from the spacious outfield berm.
Behind the lawn seating, a citrus grove with picnic tables and a small field serve as a family and children’s play area. The Cubs also will have food trucks in this area to compliment ballpark fare with unique or specialty offerings on game days only.
Cubs players will work out (and relax) in their new player development center which features a two-story weight and cardiovascular facility, hydrotherapy room, a 120-seat theater, family waiting room and cafeteria.
In addition to the player development center, the training facility includes 12 covered batting tunnels and two groups of 12-mound bullpens, six full-size practice fields and one half-size field for infield practice, as well as other specialized training areas.
The ballpark adjoins the totally rebuilt and enhanced Riverview Park. The park, covering 25-acres, features a well-stocked Riverview Lake, a 5-acre body of water with a show fountain and three bridges giving visitors a state-of-the-art family recreation areas with playgrounds for younger and older children that feature slides, climbing walls, play panels and a 75-foot kids' zip line. A rope-climbing tower--the world's largest--stretches 50 feet in the air with a metal pole in the center supporting a webbing of ropes. Visitors can cool off at a splash pad and in the shaded picnic area before and after games.
Will the new ballpark and training facility break the Cubs 100 year plus dry spell? With spring training kicking off in only two weeks, we'll soon find out.
Next year is here...no more excuses.
Want to go to Mesa?
Lawn tickets on the outfield berm are still available. Tickets may be purchased over the phone by dialing 1-800-THE-CUBS (800-843-2827) or online by clicking here. The first game in the new ballpark is on Thursday, February 27, at 1:05 p.m. when the Cubbies open their inaugural season against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
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