The Chicago Cubs and Mesa will break ground on a spring training complex on July 11, and plans are underway for a public celebration despite the challenges of getting people outdoors in Arizona’s sweltering summers.
The city expects Cubs executives and local dignitaries will gather for an event that may include hundreds or even thousands of Valley residents.
Mesa Mayor Scott Smith said he’d like to host a big celebration regardless of the heat to match the significance of the $99 million complex. It’s likely air conditioned tents and misters will be employed to make the summertime bash more inviting.
“We’re going to try to do something more than just a regular groundbreaking,” Smith said. “Obviously, the time and temperature will define what we do, but we’re doing to do as much as we can to make it a festive groundbreaking.”
One potential roadblock is how much construction activity might be underway by June.
The site at the southeast corner of the Loop 101 and Loop 202 freeways is already a construction zone. Even before stadium work has gotten underway, the undulating terrain of the former Riverview Golf Course is full of massive holes where crews are salvaging hundreds of mature trees. Also, archeologists have dug deep trenches to reveal and document ancient canals the Hohokam built to irrigate their once-thriving community.
“It actually looks like a construction site and we haven’t even scratched the surface,” Smith said.
The new complex will require moving substantial amounts of earth, which Smith said could begin even before the groundbreaking. If that’s the case, some of the existing parking lot or flat areas for parking might not be available.
City Manager Chris Brady said he expects a mid-morning event, but details are still being worked out. He anticipates various state political figures will be on hand along with members of the Ricketts family that own the Cubs. Arizona State University will join the event, as the site will become the new home for its baseball program.
The city would like showcase new site renderings that will be developed in the coming months, he said. Much of the major design work is complete, but he said some smaller things are still in flux. One challenging component involves figuring out how Cubs and Sun Devil signs and logos can exist together.
“They’re working on how do you make it feel like an ASU field when the Cubs are there, and a Cubs field when ASU is there?” Brady said. “That’s taking some time.”
The voter-approved complex features a stadium with a capacity of 15,000, including luxury boxes, shaded seats, improved concessions and design touches reminiscent of the iconic Wrigley Field. It will have seven practice fields and a separate clubhouse for ASU.
The project includes rebuilding Riverview Park with more amenities than it offers now.
The complex will be ready for spring training in 2014. The city anticipates opening the complex in December 2013 or January 2014.
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