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Tweaking needs to be done but Cubs Park is a gem

There was a full house at Cubs Park on Opening Day as the Cubs played their first game in Cubs Park, their new spring training home.
There was a full house at Cubs Park on Opening Day as the Cubs played their first game in Cubs Park, their new spring training home.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Chicago Cubs have broken in their new spring training home in Mesa, AZ. While the park is new, there has been nothing new about the way the Cubs have played this spring. But losing games has not stopped the team from setting new Cactus League attendance records, which can be chalked up to a curiosity factor about the new ballpark. People want to see the newest ballpark in the Valley. But like all things new, there are issues that need to be addressed. The park itself is very nice, reminiscent of Wrigley Field in many ways yet uniquely Cactus League. The Cubs have taken many ideas from other parks in the Valley and incorporated the best ideas into Cubs Park. They have been able to keep the setting intimate while still boasting the largest seating capacity in the Cactus League. With a capacity for 15,000 attendees, the main bowl seats 9,200, with the large berms, suites, and party decks making up the rest of the capacity.

Fans have reacted favorably to the new park, with some complaints, and Cubs management is listening. Take for instance the video board. Not only have people complained that it is too small, but fans sitting on the left field berm and down the third base line in the stands and on the concourse cannot see it at all. Many fans have suggested the board should have been placed in center field so everyone could see it. A good example of what the Cubs should have done can be seen at Scottsdale Stahttp://www.baseballpilgrimages.com/spring/scottsdale.htmldium. The video board is located in left center field, visible to most fans, but there are also smaller boards showing balls, strikes, outs and runs on both the first and third base line roofs. The Cubs do have an auxiliary board of sorts for those sitting on the left field berm, but it only shows runs by inning and total runs, no ball, strikes, outs or errors.

When asked about the video board at Cubs Park, Cubs spokesperson Julian Green explained, “We took great care to work on the design and installation of the video board and feel the size is the right execution for the ballpark. Our goal now is to look for ways to further enhance content and give fans robust programming throughout the game day experience.”

For those on the left field berm, there is a board to the third base side; however it only shows the number of runs by inning and total runs. There is no place on it for balls, strikes, errors and outs. Those keeping score said they could really use the information that was omitted.

One problem the Cubs could not have predicted occurred on a recent Saturday during a rain delay. Not only did the grounds crew put the tarp on the field much too late after the rain started, but when they tried to remove it, instead of removing it so water flowed into the drainage area, they pulled it so water that had collected on the top of the tarp pooled behind second base and could not be removed, forcing a cancellation of that game. Many fans also noted there were not enough people pulling the tarp, which may have added to the problem.

“There is drainage on the field but this was due to the tarp not getting fully placed on the field in time due to the storm system shifting in our direction at 12:40 p.m. As the tarp was being removed the water rolled off into the area behind second base putting more water in the area,” said Green. He went on to explain that the Cubs have a group of dedicated grounds crew in Mesa and the goal now is to evaluate what happened and improve the process so it does not happen again, but he denied there were too few people working with the tarp on Saturday.

Traffic flow into and out of the parking lots has been a problem for fans arriving closer to game time and after games. Fans have complained that they have waiting in traffic on Rio Salado for up to 45 minutes just waiting to get into parking lots. However, leaving the lots was a different story. Those headed toward the 101 had no problems exiting lots and getting on the freeway, but those who wanted to go westbound on the 202 have been forced to go out of their way and double back because they could not make a left turn onto Dobson.

It has been noted that some of the reasons traffic is getting backed up on Rio Salado is that the HoHoKams who are taking money or parking passes seem to want to chat with everyone. And not only do they want to chat, they stand too close to Rio Salado leaving room for only three cars to enter for parking, thus backing up traffic. Police who have stood on the corner before games have done nothing to help those trying to turn left from Rio Salado, causing some drivers to cut traffic off in order to make the turn. One accident occurred the other day at the turn for the Red Lot parking. Traffic officers need to do a better job directing traffic.

Accessible parking is available in front of the ballpark. However, when that lot is full, such as was recently the case, people are forced to park in lots further away. After some complaints, the Cubs have provided some transportation from parking lots to the park.

Cubs management is aware of the issues and is in the process of addressing them. In the meantime, this is no reason not to come out to the Cactus League’s newest park. It’s beautiful and a great place to watch baseball.