Mesa and the Chicago Cubs are now exclusively considering Riverview Park in the city’s northwest corner for the team’s new spring training complex.
The team would share the area with the proposed Waveyard water park and resort, which is scaling back its plans to only include the water park.
The team’s search had been narrowed to three sites until Thursday. City officials said they felt it’s important to develop plans for a specific site in advance of a Nov. 2 election to approve funding for the complex.
“You can only go so far until you have a specific piece of dirt that you’re looking at,” Mayor Scott Smith said.
The revamped Waveyard proposal indicates the city and the Cubs could avoid a clash with the water park developer. Mesa officials have been increasingly doubtful that Waveyard can get funding by a July 11 deadline, but the city and the Cubs said they don’t want to force the developer to back out early to make room for the baseball complex.
City Manager Chris Brady said work is beginning to see if the 125-acre site at Riverview can accommodate a water park and all the requirements the Cubs have. The Cubs don’t know yet how much land is available given that Waveyard will be much smaller now, said Mike Lufrano, general counsel for the Cubs.
“Today’s announcement allows us to have those conversations,” Lufrano said.
Waveyard pitched a joint project at Riverview to the Cubs and its owners, the Ricketts family. The team declined that suggestion and hasn’t spoken with water park officials recently. No specific plans have been drafted yet to define how the two projects would split the space.
“If there’s a way to make it work, we’ve always said they’d be great neighbors,” Lufrano said. “But we also want to make sure it’s consistent with the needs of the baseball team and the investment the Ricketts family hopes to make.”
Waveyard co-owner Jerry Hug said the water park would be a perfect complement because it and the Cubs have opposite peak seasons. Hug said water parks could be increasingly common next to sports facilities, noting the Miami Dolphins recently announced plans for a water park next to that team’s stadium.
“We think this is going to become a new business model on how stadium owners create value year round in different cities across the country,” Hug said.
Waveyard is actively working to get funding in place, which he said should be easier if it focuses on the water park.
“It’s a game changer,” Hug said.
Waveyard designers showed the Riverview site has room for a water park and the baseball facilities, Hug said, but more detailed studies will take place given Thursday’s announcement.
If Waveyard doesn’t materialize, Mesa will consider paying water park officials for environmental studies they did on the site, Mesa City Manager Chris Brady said. Mesa can cancel its dealings with Waveyard if the project doesn’t get funding by July.
The Cubs favor the Riverview site because of good freeway access and a central location. Also, a city-commissioned study shows that site had the most potential to attract specialty shops and restaurants that could be part of the Wrigleyville West concept that is aimed at making the complex active all year. The other sites studied were downtown Mesa and an area near Loop 202 and Recker Road. City officials said those sites would work but more specific plans need to be developed despite the uncertainty of how or whether Waveyard would be developed.
“At this point it would be a valuable use of staff time if we were to focus our efforts on Riverview, to look how we maximize that site,” Councilman Scott Somers said.
The northeast Mesa site was deemed the least feasible place. Vice Mayor Kyle Jones said the downtown site should be considered a backup in case unforeseen problems emerge with the Riverview site.
“Something could change down the road,” Jones said. “Probably not, but it could.”
The original Waveyard concept included the water park, a hotel and 200,000 square feet of shops. It would replace a golf course and four baseball diamonds but would not displace the park and lake at the northeast corner of Dobson and Eighth Street.
Councilman Dave Richins represents that area of Mesa and said surrounding neighborhoods supported Waveyard because it was a quality development. It’s important the latest proposal include high-end features to ensure public support, he said.
“They want to see something special if they’re going to give up that kind of space in the community,” Richins said.
Smith said the park must remain, but that it should be revamped to be Mesa’s signature park.
“I see a unique opportunity here to take what we have and make it so much better, and make something that not only the citizens of that area, but the entire city, really can be proud of,” Smith said.
Mesa residents will consider the complex in November when voting on Proposition 420. That would satisfy a city charter requirement that voters approve spending more than $1.5 million on facilities such as sports facilities.
With one site in mind, the team plans to release conceptual site plans and renderings soon. Also, the city will announce additional details of its agreement to build an $84 million complex.
Councilman Dennis Kavanaugh said is important for voters to know more about what the project will entail.
“The more details we can make available to the public, the better informed they will be in terms of reviewing the issues related to the election,” Kavanaugh said.