Out of the park: With opening done, Mesa leaders expect Cubs, Riverview parks to become economic, social drivers - East Valley Tribune: Mesa

Out of the park: With opening done, Mesa leaders expect Cubs, Riverview parks to become economic, social drivers

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Posted: Tuesday, February 4, 2014 3:30 pm

Well before Saturday’s grand unveiling of Mesa’s revamped Riverview Park, city Parks, Recreation and Commercial Facilities Director Marc Heirshberg took his family for a quick peek at what will come. Heirshberg has a 5-year-old kid, who wasn’t overly difficult to please, but the true challenge was appealing to his 17-year-old son.

The response from the younger Heirshberg was far more favorable than expected from someone his age.

“Dad (he said), I think you just built the coolest thing in Mesa, ever,” Heirshberg said.

It took nearly four years and millions of dollars — the city had up to $99 million in voter-approved bond funding for the baseball facility alone — for the Riverview Park and Cubs Park projects to come to fruition. And the public received its first look at both parks located along Rio Salado Parkway on Jan. 25.

What area residents saw was a Cubs’ spring training facility with what is estimated to be the largest stadium in the Cactus League, which can host around 15,000 fans. Aesthetically, the stadium is a blend of the Cubs’ proper home in Chicago, Wrigley Field, with a hint of a Southwest touch to accentuate its Arizona confines.

The project isn’t limited to the field itself: the facility the Cubs will use during the spring season and beyond includes a player development facility, a 12-tunnel indoor batting cage, two full-sized fields, a fan shop and even a mini-field for practice. It replaced the Cubs old home at Hohokam Stadium, which is undergoing a revamp itself to become the future home of the Oakland A’s.

Cubs Park received a fair share of the attention during the building process, which makes sense given the team’s popularity and the economic ramifications — among them a new Sheraton adjacent to the field — it will have on Mesa. District 1 Mesa City Councilmember Dave Richins made the same point prior to the opening day, but he’s just as excited, if not more so, for Riverview Park’s redo.

“The park is absolutely phenomenal; it’s going to be Mesa’s signature park,” he said.

A couple of visitors to the opening event shared Richins’ enthusiasm for the area. Mesa resident Amanda Renteria came to see what the park has to offer and even hopped a quick trip up on an air balloon for the first time in her life. Fellow Mesa resident James Woodruff walked down the street from his home with a fishing reel in tow to visit the park on opening day and get a little (unsuccessful) fishing in.

He said he hadn’t visited Riverview all that often before the renovation, but was impressed with what the city unveiled last Saturday.

“I think it puts a nice face on Mesa,” he said.

It’s an important face for Mesa to have in its pursuits to grow, with Richins saying the multiple attractions — ranging from the lake to the splash pad to the 300-foot climbing wall to the park-defining 50-foot climbing tower — should attract more families to the community.

Those families should be relatively young — the kind that tends to linger around communities longer — and filled with lawyers, accountants and higher-educated professionals.

Throughout the days of cool temperatures and even the hottest days, Richins said families can take their kids to Riverview and enjoy what the park has to offer, particularly a climbing tower made of rope Heirshberg said is the largest of its kind in the world.

More people living in Mesa means a deeper tax base to pull from, as well as an opportunity for businesses to grow around Mesa, especially Riverview.

“Those parks are important for being economic drivers,” he said.

What people saw last week, though, isn’t everything the park has to offer: In fact, Richins and Heirshberg said Riverview Park still has a lot of room to expand.

A few more upcoming additions include playing fields for sports such as football, and the expansion of a path to take walkers or bikers right to Tempe Town Lake.

Even without everything in place, Heirshberg said the park is already becoming something of a trendsetter for other communities — the climbing tower is the best example — and Riverview Park is on its way toward becoming the coolest thing in Mesa.

“It’s full of fun, and I hope it’s a park people come to from generation to generation,” Heirshberg said.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-5647 or emungenast@evtrib.com.

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