Yesterday was the official ground-breaking ceremony on the Chicago Cubs’ new Spring Training facility in Mesa, Arizona, and a variety of Arizona papers offered a take on the festivities, which sounded pretty cool.
Crammed inside a tent under a pale blue sky and unusually humid conditions, many of those officials connected to the culmination of the $99 million facility were at Mesa’s Riverview Park for the groundbreaking on Wednesday. The city said the ballpark is estimated to cost $84 million and $14 million for infrastructure and currently is $1 million under budget. Any costs over the $99 million, the Cubs have agreed to pay.
The Kellers were among more than 500 people attending the groundbreaking with Cubs co-owners Tom Ricketts and his sister, Laura, Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, Robert Hunt, president of Hunt Construction, David Bower of Missouri-based Populous that’s overseeing the project’s design, Mesa City Council members and members of Mesa’s Westwood Little League. Former Cubs catcher Jody Davis emceed the event.
Like a baseball game itself, attendees passed through turnstiles and were handed programs and boxes of Cracker Jack from vendors and commemorative bats and baseballs for those who tested their throwing speed at a pitching machine. Similar to a spring training game at Hohokam Stadium where the Cubs now play spring training games, the Mesa Hohokams dressed in familiar maroon polo shirts guided people where to park.
To me, that just sounds like the Cubs doing this thing right, even though it’s gotten absolutely zero press in Chicago. Make it a fun event for local Arizona folks, PR-value be damned. Well done. The East Valley Tribune piece has some quotes from Tom Ricketts as well, but it’s mostly the kind of stuff you’d expect.
AZCentral.com has some pictures of the event, if you’d like to peruse, including the obligatory shovel-digging shot featuring Tom and Laura Ricketts, as well as Mesa Mayor Scott Smith:
Separately, AZCentral.com indicated that Arizona State University, the Cubs’ would-be partner in using the finished facilities, was not present at the ground-breaking, while the two sides continue to negotiate. At last check, the two sides were really struggling to find common ground – financially – on a deal that would make sense for the Cubs’ year-round needs at the facility. According to AZCentral, a resolution could come within a few weeks, as the two sides have apparently worked out some of their issues, but nothing is guaranteed.
The Spring Training facilities are expected to be completed late next year, and be ready to go for Spring Training in 2014. The ancillary stuff – the Wrigleyville West piece, with dining, shopping, etc. – might not be completed until some time thereafter.
While it’s easy to forget, given the current Wrigley renovation impasse/hubbub, getting these new Spring facilities was and is a huge deal for the Cubs. Not only will it help them generate more revenue during Spring Training, and not only will it help optimally prepare players for the season, but it will also be a world class training facility year-round for Cubs minor leaguers and rehabbing vets. It should also be a fun place to see some Spring baseball.