Cubs Park, a New Spring Training Destination

In 1952 the Chicago Cubs brought Spring Training baseball to the city of Mesa Arizona. This was the culmination of 10 years of negotiation after the Cubs first expressed an interest in training in Arizona in 1942. In 1952 six Spring Training games were played in Mesa with the Cubs facing the Cleveland Indians, New York Giants, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Chicago White Sox.

DSC_9676 2014-02-27Those first years of baseball were played at Rendezvous Park. Rendezvous Park would not ever be described as a state-of-the-art facility. It’s clubhouse was too small, so small in fact that the players luggage could not be stored inside. Each morning the luggage would be set outside to give the players room to dress then after they left the luggage would be brought back inside.

Extra bleachers were rented for games to give fans something to sit on. In addition 500 wooden chairs were acquired from Los Angeles Wrigley Field and served as box seats at the field. The Cubs would continue using Rendezvous Field until 1965.

In 1966 after the Cubs relocated their Spring Training to southern California, Mesa was without baseball for three years until the Oakland Athletics came to Mesa.

In 1976 Rendezvous Field was finally demolished and construction began on a new stadium – Hohokam Park. This new park opened in 1977 as part of the city of Mesa’s centennial celebration.

DSC_9639 2014-02-27Two years later the Oakland Athletics would relocate to Scottsdale and the Chicago Cubs would return to Mesa and make Hohokam Park their home. In 1996 after the final game of Spring Training Hohokam Park was demolished and a new expanded stadium and facility would be built on the same location.

The Cubs opened the new Hohokam Park in 1997 and remained there until the end of the 2013 Spring Training season after which they would relocate to a new facility in Mesa to begin play in 2014.

Today marked the beginning of a new era of Chicago Cubs baseball in partnership with the city of Mesa. Cubs Park, which is affectionately called “Wrigley-ville West”, would hold its first game between the home team Chicago Cubs and the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Cubs Park is the latest in a long line of state-of-the-art facilities that dot the landscape of the Cactus League. It is set on the edge of Tempe and Mesa on Rio Salado Parkway and is as spacious as it is inviting.

DSC_9643 2014-02-27At Hohokam Park practice fields were located away from the stadium and it was problematic for coaches and staff to get from one field to another. Such is not the case at Cubs Park. The stadium is in the middle of a complex of clubhouses, weight rooms, practice fields, and other amenities.

The Cubs have long been a popular draw in the Cactus League and this new stadium will allow more fans to experience a game. Capacity is listed at 15,000 making it one of the biggest stadiums for Spring Training.

There are times a trade-off between having a new ballpark and retaining some of the charm and nostalgia from being in an existing facility. The Chicago Cubs have tried to bridge that gap by including memorable pieces from Hohokam Park and Wrigley Field while providing fans with the amenities they have come to expect.

DSC_9652 2014-02-27As you enter the gates near right field you will find large whiteboards listing the starting line-ups for each team. This was a long-time tradition at Hohokam and the Cubs brought it with them to the new stadium.

Walking the concourse towards home plate you will find a large replica of the Wrigley Field sign that adorns the stadium in Chicago. Fans can have their picture taken in front of this Americana.

The sight lines are beautiful from nearly every seat in the stadium. In the outfields Cubs Park has one of the largest lawn areas in the Cactus League allowing fans to bring blankets and camp out on the line to watch a game.

The lawn seats are obviously very popular and an inexpensive way to see a game. The Cubs understood this popularity and made sure that a large number of restrooms are located near the lawn to ensure fan’s comfort without having to walk.

DSC_9661 2014-02-27Beyond centerfield is a small replica of Wrigley Field where kids can play whiffleball and try to hit balls over the ivy fences. In this case the ivy is a covering over chained link fence instead of the brick fences of Wrigley.

The feel of the ballpark is much like Hohokam but with much better views from the stands. While it holds 15,000 the park still feels very intimate with fans very close to the action. This is very much an upgrade from the Cubs former Spring Training facilities in the past.

Don’t feel too bad if you miss Hohokam Park. It is closed for 2014 going through another extensive renovation but will reopen in 2015 with the Oakland Athletics returning to Mesa for the first time in 40 years. They will begin Cactus League play in this updated facility next season.


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