I see a lot of questions about the new park and notes from people who are going to be visiting and what they can expect, etc... Though the facility and the fields are awesome, and some things are still being tweaked (I hope), I am very disappointed in the fan experience to date.
There are 7 practice fields in the complex, plus the half field. The 4 practice fields (fields 4 - 7) on the west side of the grounds are accessible to fans when practices are going on. This is the area that is almost equivalent to the Fitch Park setup. 4 adjacent fields with a large® observation deck in the middle. As I write this on Monday, 2/17, at 11:15 am, the Cubs have been in those accessible practice fields for a total of 2 hours. It has pretty much been all locked up outside of those 2 hours. Of course, I expect this to change as the camp gets full and the position players report.
Besides those 2 hours of drills in the Fitchlike area, the players work out in the non-accessible fields, which are much closer to the non-accessible clubhouse (locker room) & office building in the center of the complex. The 3 1/2 non-accessible fields are also close to the non-accessible batting cages and non-accessible workout facilities. This weekend the practices took place in the non-accessible fields where fans can only see one field. There were no concessions, no water, and no restroom facilities in that small area that fans were reduced to. A 10 or 12 foot high fence and a tiny bleacher seating area. Clearly they were just allowing people to hang around and never thought anyone would actually want to watch under those conditions. But these are Cubs fans. There were a hundred or so fans, most from out of town, many of whom I am sure came thinking things were going to be very different.
Over the weekend, I may have seen more security and green jacket employees than Cubs players. Even in the Fitch-like practice fields on the west end, the players do not have to get within 30 feet of the fans (unless they want to - and they don't). It is a far less intimate and far less cozy environment. Autograph hounds are livid, non Cubs fans joke about it, and real Cubs fans are just bummed so far.
More really disappointing news was given to me over the weekend. If you've been here before for Spring Training, you have probably witnessed the practices in HohoKam after they moved over from Fitch toward the end of February. Those practices are going to take place in the main (non-accessible) practice field, not at the stadium. So none of that this year. And people seeking autographs or just a close by view while the players boarded the bus... that will all take place in the Cubs (non-accessible) parking lot by the clubhouse/locker room.
Personally, I am appalled with what I have seen and with the way people are being treated so far. A couple of sad incidents and confrontations have already occurred. And to think that in addition to all the good things we've heard about the new park, we are getting this, PLUS another 100 loss type season. Thanks, Cubs! And to think how excited we all were about this just a couple weeks ago.