Soccer and ball players will soon find more fields around Mesa for a game, now that the city has begun work on projects approved by voters in November’s bond election.
The new Chicago Cubs spring training facility under construction at Riverview includes several components that the general public will enjoy and be able to experience, said Marc Heirshberg, Mesa’s director of parks, recreation and commercial facilities.
There will be city-owned baseball fields that can be rented outside of the spring training season, in addition to a number of soccer fields. Those soccer fields will be used for parking during spring training, much like the set up now at Mesa’s Hohokam Stadium.
“We’re hoping everything will coincide with the opening of spring training 2014,” Heirshberg said, of when the facility should be complete.
Fields of all types are in demand in Mesa, especially during the spring when the weather is nice, Heirshberg said.
“We’re booked solid for almost every field we have,” he said. Many junior college teams from cold-weather states come to Mesa to prepare for their upcoming seasons, he said. There are also several tournaments scheduled, as well.
“Overall we have a need for fields throughout the city. You can drive by the basins or neighborhood parks and you’ll see kids anywhere they can find to get their practice in,” he said. “Anytime we can add fields back into the inventory that’s a huge benefit for everyone.”
The city currently has 60 baseball/softball fields with 60-foot-long base paths, 25 with 90-foot-long base paths, 20 multiuse fields for soccer and football, and 16 soccer-specific fields.
Under the plan presented with the $70 million bond package, an additional 18 soccer fields, 14 baseball/softball fields and five softball-specific fields were to be added. The city will seek community input to see if that’s what’s wanted and needed, he said.
“Everything we do we’ll meet with the community, the stakeholders, and say, ‘Here we go, this is your park, what do you want to see here?’” he said.
That happened with neighbors of Riverview Park, the spring training site on city-owned property located at the northwest corner of Dobson Road and 8th Street, he said. Neighborhood discussions for other projects will start in the next six months.
Even during the recession, the interest in children’s sports — especially soccer — didn’t wane.
“We’re seeing an increase of interest for soccer,” he said, siting the plans for new fields.
The city has a Little League and softball complex at Quail Run Sports Complex in East Mesa. Bond funds may create a similar facility at the former Powell Junior High School site, now the Mesa Education Center at 855 W. 8th Ave., and the adjacent Kleinman Park, 710 S. Extension, he said.
Another big project for the city is a new pool complex to open at Mesa High School.
“I’ve just received the go-ahead to start planning,” Heirshberg said. The pool will be located at Southern Avenue and Harris Drive. “That will move quick.”
The pool will eventually replace the pool at Taylor Junior High School, which will stay open until the new complex is complete.
“It was generated by a push from the community saying, ‘We really want this at Mesa High,’” he said. “We’ll reach out the community and find out what type of amenities they will like. It won’t be a Skyline (Aquatics Center) or Kino, but it will have eight to 10 lap lanes, then the leisure pool element, whether it’s slides or splash pads. We’ll draw up different options for the community and see what sticks.”
Heirshberg hopes to have that facility open for the 2015 summer season.
“Whatever we do there we’ll make sure it meets the need for swim lessons, the recreation teams and the high school swim team, if they desire to use it.”
Photo: Chicago Cubs spring training facility under construction Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013 in Mesa. [Tim Hacker/Tribune]