MESA, Ariz. – The Cubs unveiled their state-of-the-art spring training facility in the desert Wednesday as chairman Tom Ricketts remained hopeful that work on their historic home in Chicago will begin soon.
“We’re working toward a point that it can get done,” Ricketts said Wednesday. “Everybody’s talking. Everyone has incentives to see us get to that point. And we’re optimistic that we’ll get to the finish line on that pretty soon. But it’s a process. We just got to play through it.”
Ricketts spoke at the ribbon-cutting for Cubs Park in Mesa, Ariz., their new publicly funded stadium and training complex. Pitchers and catchers report today, and players will be greeted by a sparkling new facility.
In Chicago, not much has changed.
The $500 million overhaul to Wrigley Field remains on hold. The Cubs want to install a 650-square-foot sign in right field with a guarantee that the neighboring rooftop owners won’t slow construction with a lawsuit. The project funded by the team also would also include a Jumbotron in left field and upgrades throughout the stadium for players and fans along with a hotel across the street.
The rooftop owners, who hand over a percentage of their revenue to the team, are balking amid concerns about blocked views. At the Cubs’ annual fan convention last month, Ricketts said there was progress but also compared the owners to neighbors peering through the living room window to watch Showtime and then charging others to get a look. That didn’t sit well with the rooftop owners and negotiations stalled.
“Everyone has an incentive to get it done,” Ricketts said Wednesday. “I think everyone wants to see this get to the finish line, and we’re working toward it.”
Getting the project in Mesa completed wasn’t easy, either.
The Cubs discussed moving to Naples, Fla. Instead, they’re staying in Mesa after voters in 2010 approved a $99 million outlay of public money for the stadium complex, a redo of next-door Riverview Park and infrastructure.
The new ballpark has the largest seating capacity in the Cactus League at 15,000, and it includes some features reminiscent of Wrigley Field such as arched steelwork, a brick wall behind home plate and a green scoreboard with a clock.
Players will have access to a two-story workout facility, a hydrotherapy room, a 120-seat theater, family waiting room and cafeteria.
There are 12 covered batting tunnels and two groups of 12-mound bullpens, six full-size practice fields and one half-size field for infield practice, as well as other specialized training areas.
“Now, we have a facility that reminds us that we are a part of something special when we come to work every day,” president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. “This place is as good as it gets. ... if we can’t get better here we can’t get better anywhere else. I promise you we will work extremely hard to get better and to put that World Series flag on top of this complex to finish it off.”