The new Cubs Park has comfortable seats with wide aisles, concessions and restrooms at every turn, easy access off two nearby major highways on Mesa's west edge, six parking lots with a total of 5,000 spaces and a tailgating zone, and a high-definition video board 28 feet by 88 feet.
Autographs? They're an important part of spring training to some and easier here than at the old practice site, boxy HoHoKam Stadium two miles east of the new park. The players are accessible on a long, open footpath connecting the park with locker rooms.
Not even rooftops were left out: There is a party deck called Eighteen/76, which is a rooftop viewing area with lawn chairs and bleachers in left field.
Cubs Park is the latest addition to the Phoenix area's booming Major League Baseball spring scene and already compares favorably with impressive Salt River Fields at Talking Stick near Scottsdale, opened three years ago and used by the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies.
The Cubs Park's 15,000-person capacity makes it Arizona's largest facility for spring baseball, important because the Cubs are a top Cactus League draw. At least that many were on hand in late January for a preview and dedication hosted by the City of Mesa.
The crowd of smiling faces, a good share of them youngsters with parents and grandparents, roamed the open stadium and enjoyed the carnival atmosphere of the outside grounds. It was difficult not to feel good about the park with the weather in the 80s and clear skies.
Cub fans support their team "unlike any others," said Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, who shepherded overwhelming approval of an $84 million referendum to fund the project. Approximately $22.7 million more was spent on infrastructure and to turn part of the 146-acre Riverview Park complex into a year-round, multiuse recreational facility.
Among other Cubs Park amenities are a Kids Zone providing fun activities beyond the center field wall, a club for fans beyond the right field wall, and food trucks offering unique Arizona cuisine. A smaller version of the Wrigley Field marquee will be available for fans to flash names and personalized messages.
A nine-acre segment of the overall complex will be home of a 175-room Starwood Sheraton Hotel, which will have a 12,000-square-foot conference center. Construction starts in June, with a completion date of Dec. 31, 2015. There is additional room for future retail stores and restaurants.
The current neighborhood does not offer as much for post-game fun as Chicago's Wrigleyville, but it is a huge improvement over HoHoKam. The sprawling Riverview Shopping Center, which has a Hyatt Place Hotel, is across Dobson Road immediately east of the complex.
The mall plans a Chicago Fest from March 14-16. In addition to Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill and the Cactus Moon Sports Grill rolling out welcome mats, there will be a Taste of Chicago food court, live music and Chicago-specific exhibits.
If you go
If you go to Mesa and want tickets for a game in Cubs Park, get moving.
Tickets could be a challenge this year despite the increase in seating. The Cubs already are one of the top draws in the Phoenix spring training scene, and now there is the lure of the new complex. The price at stadium windows ranges from $8-$38, but there will be extra charges when ordered online or through an outside ticket source such as Stub Hub.
Here is a helpful website: tinyurl.com/cubsmesa.
Tip: Approximately 60 percent of the stadium is in the shade, but it's a good idea to bring sunscreen.
The Cubs Park in the Riverview complex in Mesa is just minutes off Loop 101 or Loop 202 in Phoenix's East Valley.
From Loop 101: Exit at University Drive and turn east to Dobson Road, then left at Dobson to the stadium parking entrance.
From Loop 202 (Red Mountain Freeway): Take Exit 10, Dobson Road, and turn south on Dobson, going less than a mile to the parking entrance.