MESA, Arizona -- Give the city of Mesa credit, they and the Cubs definitely know how to throw a good party.
Tens of thousands -- I wouldn't even begin to guess how many, though it was likely far beyond the 15,000 capacity of Cubs Park -- showed up as Mesa officially opened Riverview Park, the city's new open space to the east of the Cubs' new spring-training facility. The park includes plenty of green space for residents, a lake stocked for fishing, a rock-climbing wall, softball fields and a lot more. Various food and drink booths were set up, there were hot-air balloon rides, a rock band, and quite a few other activities for kids. There was a real good cross-section of local residents, from older folks to families with very young kids.
The ballpark, which you have seen before in posts I have made here, was open for anyone to walk around and check out the facilities. One place that had not been open on my previous visits was the left-field party deck, located behind and above the berm. The seating up there is quite nice and the views of the field are clear. The party deck is a separate ticket from other tickets at Cubs Park (shown as "EIGHTEEN 76" in this price list), and while plenty of food and drink will be available up there, it will not be included in the ticket price.
Speeches were given by Mesa dignitaries and Julian Green, representing the Cubs, all with lavish praise for the city and the team for working together to get this done in "a unique public-private partnership," as put by Green. About a month ago, the city of Mesa closed on the sale of some land owned in Pinal County, Arizona, which, in part, will help pay for this project (and others):
The City of Mesa has closed on an agreement to sell more than 11,400 acres of land it owns in Pinal County to Pinal Land Holdings, LLC (PLH), a real estate investment company. It is one of the largest land deals in the history of Mesa and the three-phase agreement could net the City up to $135 million. PLH will fully manage the remaining lands through a master lease. The property is comprised of 88 parcels within the city limits of Coolidge and Pinal County. “We are excited to take an important asset in Pinal County and convert it into direct and ongoing economic investments,” Mesa Mayor Scott Smith said. “City staff worked hard to make this deal happen and their efforts paid off.” The land sale and lease proceeds will go into the City’s Economic Investment Fund envisioned to finance, in part, important economic development projects such as the Cubs new training complex and the City’s higher education initiative including the Benedictine University campus and the Mesa Center for Higher Education. A portion of the funds may also be used to pay for other HEAT initiative projects, which target health care, education, aerospace, tourism, and technology industries in Mesa.
I can't say enough about how nice this place is -- both the ballpark and other Cubs facilities, and the city park. So many people tried to come to Mesa's party Saturday afternoon that some gave up, stuck in traffic and unable to find parking. That won't be the case for Cubs games, as there's plenty of parking for the 15,000-capacity stadium.
There will be plenty of amenities, too, beyond the great sightlines. The Cubs really did do everything right in building this facility, which gives me great hope that the Wrigley Field renovations, once they get started, will be done in exactly the same thoughtful way that the Mesa complex appears to have been planned. If you can make it down to Mesa for spring training this year, I encourage you to do it. Even though the team might not be great, the place to watch them play is top-notch.
Enjoy the photos from Saturday afternoon's event. There was a particularly colorful sunset over Mesa this afternoon; hope the photos will warm you up, if you're in the cold Midwest.