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Official Review by Jason Bartel, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The AZL Cubs play their games in the main stadium, which is unique to those complexes that are newer. Typically, teams that have the new stadiums play these games on a side field, but the Cubs are the exception. The Cubs have been a staple of baseball in the city of Mesa since 1952, so they have built up a little bit of a fan base over that time.
With the Cubs moving here in 2014, the Arizona Fall League’s Mesa Solar Sox are also leaving Hohokam for Cubs Park beginning in 2014. The stadium itself is expansive, which does not lend itself to a pleasant AZL experience. And that’s too bad considering the practice fields are probably the most advanced out of all of the facilities in the Phoenix area.
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The concession stands at Cubs Park are all closed during AZL play. You can bring in your own food however.
The Cubs always draw really well for Spring Training, so they built a huge stadium to fit all those fans. During AZL play, there are hardly ever more than 100 people at these games, so the enormous stadium feels even emptier than some of the others like the AZL Brewers or AZL Angels.
All fans have to enter through the gate located down the first base line. The Cubs dugout is located along the third base line. The scoreboard sits high above the left field wall, and the basic part of it is turned on for the AZL season. Also out in left field is a radar gun reading, which is definitely something you don't usually see at these games.
The stadium itself is very hot and muggy, especially right behind home plate. Throughout the game, planes are flying in and out of Sky Harbor Airport and go directly overhead which is quite annoying. The seats are wide and comfortable, but there's not a lot of wind to make it a more pleasant night. AZL games typically start at 7 PM local time, so the sun is not an issue in the stands.
Mesa Riverview Shopping Center offers a wide range of dining and entertainment options for baseball fans before and after Cubs games. Some of the highlights in the shopping center include Famous Dave's BBQ, Toby Keith's Bar and Grill, and Matta's Grill and Cantina. All of these are located within walking distance of the park, so if you are inclined, you can park there and make the short walk over to the ballpark.
In addition to the food, Mesa Riverview has a movie theater, a Bass Pro Shop (which has tons of parking), and the Hyatt Place Phoenix/Mesa hotel.
On the west side of the 101 highway along Rio Salado Pkwy is Tempe Marketplace (an outdoor mall) which offers even more dining and shopping options. It's a little further of a walk, but it's definitely close by and along Rio Salado, which feeds most of the mall's parking lots. Dave and Busters is always a good choice at Tempe Marketplace, or Lucille's Smokehouse Bar-B-Que.
Another mile west on Rio Salado and you hit Sun Devil Stadium, Packard Stadium, and Wells Fargo Arena, along with all of the fun things to do around that area of Arizona State's campus which, of course, includes Mill Ave.
The Cubs draw a typical amount of fans to their AZL games, which is to say, maybe 20. The Cub fans tended to sit up near the concourse and did not really make any noise for their team. The night I went, they happened to be playing the AZL Diamondbacks, and those DBack fans were making all the noise that night.
Cubs Park is located at the intersection of the Loop 101 Pima Fwy and the Loop 202 Red Mountain Fwy. It's very easy to access the main parking lot for the AZL games, which is located along Rio Salado on the south side of the stadium. There's plenty of parking in this one lot, which is right next to the only gate that's open.
Inside the stadium, the only bathrooms open are located right behind home plate. All of the others are closed. Also, the outfield concourse and the upper level are roped off during AZL games.
It's all free, and the stadium is brand new, but the feeling in the stadium is not great for these games. If you haven't been able to see Cubs Park during Spring Training, you at least get a chance to see the inside for free during these. It's just that nothing's open, and you can't actually go see the stuff that's in the outfield.
The extra here goes to the stadium displaying the speed of each pitch on the left field scoreboard. That is something that most places in the Arizona League are unable to do, or choose not to.
This was my first time inside the actual stadium, and while I see the potential for it to be an all-time great Cactus League experience, the Cubs should be playing AZL games on a side field. The way the stadium is set up just doesn't lend itself to a pleasant summer experience.
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1065 N Dobson Rd
Mesa, AZ 85201
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