Tradition melds with a state-of-the-art facility for the Chicago Cubs and the City of Mesa in 2016, as the team starts their third season at Sloan Park (known as Cubs Park in 2014). 2016 marks the Cubs 38th consecutive, and 52nd overall spring training in Mesa. It’s also the 64th year the Cubs have held spring training in the state of Arizona.
The jewel of the Cactus League, Sloan Park boasts the largest seating capacity of all major league baseball spring training stadiums at 15,000, with 9,200 fixed seats, 4,200 outfield berm capacity, and room for 1,600 on the suite level. While the stadium has baseball’s largest capacity for spring training games, the Cubs took great effort to preserve the intimate environment that spring training is known for.
The stadium has several elements reminiscent of Wrigley Field, including dark green light towers, metal work on the upper deck, and a press box facade that looks similar to Wrigley’s. The Cubs will be situated in the third base dugout at Sloan Park, (at Hohokam Stadium they were in the first base dugout), maintaining the consistency of Wrigley where the team occupies the third base dugout during home games. The new park will also feature a red marquee sign, mimicking the famous sign that adorns the exterior of Wrigley Field.
Set on 142 acres where Mesa’s Riverview Golf Course was formerly located, Sloan Park is near the intersection of highways 101 and 202, bordered on the south by Rio Salado Parkway. The complex includes four practice fields, two major league diamonds, a half-sized field, 16 batting tunnels (12 indoors), 22 pitching mounds, and nearly 65,000 square feet of clubhouse space.
The Sloan Park complex is used year-round by the organization, and features the Cactus League’s largest player development building at 70,000 square feet. This building includes major and minor league locker rooms, a 7,500 square-foot two-story weight room/workout facility, a 120 seat theater for meetings, and hydrotherapy room containing four whirlpools, with separate hydrotherapy pool.
Sloan Park set the all-time MLB spring training record for home attendance in 2015, drawing 222,415 fans. The Cubs also set several single-game marks in excess of 15,000 fans, including 15,342 on March 27th 2015 against the Chicago White Sox, which set an all-time single-game Spring Training record. The 2015 record breaking spring season, broke the Cubs own all-time MLB attendance record for home games during a spring training season set in 2014, also at Sloan Park.
• 360 feet down the leftfield line
• 360 feet down the rightfield line
• 410 feet to straight-away centerfield
• 366 feet to left center & 398 to right center
Mesa is the 14th different training site used by the Cubs since 1900 and the fifth site since 1921. In some instances, the team’s exhibition games were not played at the training site.
A Little History on Baseball in Mesa
By the 1920’s Mesa was home to several amateur baseball teams, the most well known being the Mesa Jewels. The teams needed a better baseball field which led the community to build their first permanent diamond in 1921, at the corner of 2nd Street and Sirrine. With the development of the nearby Rendezvous Hall, for social events, and Rendezvous Pool, the ballpark gradually became known as “Rendezvous Park.”
The Chicago Cubs first expressed interest in training in Mesa as early as 1942, when a contingent of Cubs officials met with City officials to evaluate the ballpark and lodging facilities. But it was not until 1952 that the final decision was made for the Chicago Cubs to use Mesa as their spring training home. Six major league exhibition games were played in Mesa that season, against the Cleveland Indians, New York Giants, Pittsburgh Pirates, and crosstown rival Chicago White Sox.
Amenities at the old Rendezvous Park were less than ideal. The clubhouse was too small to accommodate the players’ luggage; the trunks were moved outside each morning and returned to the clubhouse at the end of the day. Extra bleachers were rented to accommodate the large number of spectators, and 500 wooden chairs were acquired from Los Angeles Wrigley Field, to serve as “box seats.”
Improvements were made to Rendezvous Park over the years, with the Cubs training at the site through 1965. After a three-year absence, spring training returned to Mesa when an agreement was reached with the Oakland A’s. Mesa was Oakland’s spring training site for 10 years, including their three consecutive world championship seasons from 1972 to 1974.
Rendezvous Park fell victim to the wrecking ball in November 1976, replaced by the first stadium at Hohokam Park, dedicated in 1977. The A’s continued training at this new facility until 1979, at which time the Chicago Cubs relocated back to Mesa from Scottsdale. It was during the mid-1980s that the Cubs started enjoyed unprecedented attendance, ranking as the Cactus League’s largest draw, at or near the top of all major league teams in spring training admissions.
This continued support from area residents and winter visitors played a large role in the developing and building of the new Sloan Park complex; one of the most unique and best spring training facilities in all of Major League Baseball.