MESA, Arizona -- In front of several hundred invited guests (as well as people who just showed up to see the festivities), local dignitaries, Cubs management personnel and the entire Cubs baseball operations staff, the ceremonial ribbon was officially cut on Cubs Park Wednesday morning. Just two weeks from tomorrow, the Cubs will play their first game at the park. Dignitaries included Vicki Santo and the family of Robert Brinton, former president of the Cactus League who passed away a little over two years ago. Brinton was one of the driving forces to keep the Cubs in Mesa and was praised by several of the speakers.
Mesa and Arizona political figures including Gov. Jan Brewer and Mesa Mayor Scott Smith spoke, thanking the Cubs for giving Mesa the chance. Smith admitted that when this idea first was proposed, "We didn't even have a Plan A," but given the chance, he said, "We'll make it work," and they did, with this project four years in the making. Smith also said, "The new Cubs Park and Riverview Park will provide a spring-training experience like no other in major-league baseball. The two parks are connected by a palm-tree-lined paseo with opportunities for retail, restaurant and hotel development on either side. Mesa calls March our second Christmas when it comes to sales tax numbers due to the influx of springtraining spending. I can’t think of a better way to support the economy than to build on our success and develop the parks into a destination for all to play and stay."
Theo Epstein made a few short comments, thanking the Ricketts family and the city of Mesa for providing a top-notch facility for player development. Here's video of some of Theo's speech:
You'll notice the rather loud airplane noise in the background, which you'll hear in some of the other videos in this post. Cubs Park is only about six miles from Sky Harbor Airport and appears to be directly in one of the takeoff patterns. If you go, you'll definitely be aware of the planes flying over.
Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts said the new facility will dramatically improve player training and development and provide the team with a competitive advantage.
"This new ballpark and player development facility will allow our players to better train and compete," said Ricketts. "To achieve our goal of winning a world championship, we must be able to provide our players with the world-class facilities they deserve."
Also invited to speak was Cubs Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins, who talked about his own experiences in spring training in Arizona, compared to the new complex:
Then, it was off to the actual ribbon-cutting ceremony:
After the ceremony, Tom Ricketts and Mayor Smith had some further comments:
As I have written before, the Cubs really did everything right in building this complex. From the playing fields, to the practice fields, to player facilities, to office space, to fan amenities, everything is top-notch. In the past I have praised spring-training facilities like Talking Stick for being the best in the Cactus League, but I think the Cubs have one-upped Talking Stick; they took quite a few of the best ideas from there and other complexes, and have bettered some of them. This isn't just a place for use for six weeks of games in February and March, either; this will be a year-round facility, in use for extended spring training, rehab assignments, the Arizona Summer Rookie League, the Arizona Fall League, and other events. The city park that's just east of Cubs Park is well worth a visit if you're out here, too. It's got things for kids, plenty of open space, and a lake stocked with fish if you're into fishing.
Finally, as you might have guessed, Tom Ricketts was asked about what's happening with the Wrigley Field renovation project. He said only that everyone wants to get things done, and he expects that things will "get done," and that renovations can begin soon.
If the Wrigley restoration project turns out as well as Cubs Park in Mesa has, it will be awesome. The Cubs have the best park in the Cactus League. I'm excited for the first game, two weeks from Thursday (I heard today that many games are already sold out, so if you're planning on coming, hope you have your tickets already), and I hope to be at some of the workouts and intrasquad games, which are all open to the public at the main practice field adjacent to Cubs Park.