MESA, Ariz. — The lights were on before dawn as crews prepped for the 10 a.m. grand opening ceremony Wednesday of their new spring training home.
Cubs Park, near Dobson Road and Loop 202, seats 15,000 and has features that resemble Wrigley Field in Chicago, including a brick wall behind home plate and an old-school clock on the outfield scoreboard.
But it also has a Cactus League feel, too, including a grassy area beyond the outfield fences for fans and a party deck in left field.
Mesa Mayor Scott Smith said the Cubs generate about $130 million each year for the Valley and the facility goes beyond baseball.
“This is big business. Spring training is really not about baseball: it’s about tourism and it’s a major driver in our economy and baseball just happens to be the vehicle,” Smith said.
Robert Johnson with the Cactus League Baseball Association said spring training is more than just great baseball. It pumps almost $650 million into our economy each year.
“Spring training is an industry in Arizona,” he said. “It’s a staple of our economy. It’s as big as cattle, copper and cotton. It’s bigger than the Super Bowl every year.”
The 2008 Super Bowl in Glendale pumped an estimated $550 million in Arizona’s economy.
The home opener is Feb. 27 against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Right after spring training ends, ground will be broken on a Sheraton hotel just east of the stadium. The goal is to have it open by spring training 2015.
Mesa will add another team to its spring training lineup next year when the Oakland A’s move into the Cubs’ old home at Hohokam Stadium.