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  • Writer's pictureMeg Minard

Sloan Park – Chicago Cubs Spring Training


Photos by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.29

Sloan Park 2330 W Rio Salado Pkwy Mesa, AZ 85201



Year Opened: 2014

Capacity: 15,000

 

Cubs in Mesa

Sloan Park, best known as the spring training home for the Chicago Cubs, is already celebrating its 10th season.  This facility often rates at the top of many Cactus League stadium rankings, and deservedly so.

The city of Mesa, AZ, built Sloan Park on the site of the former Riverview Park Golf Course, and some beautiful landscaping remains.  The city developed the surrounding area into Riverview Park, a premiere recreation area offering fishing, water fountains, climbing towers and playgrounds, and multiple walking paths. 


The Cubs have been in Mesa since 1952.  The Cubs played spring training games at Rendezvous Park from 1952 – 1966, after which they moved to southern California.  Hohokam Park was the Cubs spring training facility from 1979 – 2013.


Cubs fans have provided huge crowds in spring training throughout the years, and they continue to flock to the Arizona Cactus League in February and March, often breaking attendance records.


Food & Beverage 5

The food choices at Sloan Park are the best in the Cactus League, though at major league prices.  Several permanent stands line the concourse, specialty kiosks sell snacks and beverages, and the right field pavilion has six or more food trucks selling an assortment of tasty cuisine.


Permanent concession stands reflect Chicago:  Windy City Dog, A Taste of Chicago, The North Side, On Deck, and Rendezvous Park Grill.  The distinctive Vienna Beef Chicago Dog is available throughout the ballpark.  Other choices include regular hot dogs, bratwurst, chicken tenders, tater tots, pizza (Chicago style), pretzels, nachos, totchos (nachos made with tater tots), and more.  Prices generally run $5 - $14.


Kiosks selling Chicago Dogs, kettle corn, cotton candy, ice cream, beer, peanuts, chips, churros, cotton candy, and other unhealthy snacks dot the concourse. 


The right field food trucks include Chuckies (famous breaded pork tenderloin from Iowa), Lobstar (New England seafood), Churros Locos (Churros and Mexican), Kona Ice, and more!  The food trucks can change from game to game.  This is your best choice for ‘non-traditional’ stadium fare.


The Jim Beam Bourbon Bar is on the left field concourse.  The right field concourse has Hornitos Hacienda.  Both offer cocktails and draft beer, with Hornitos pouring Goose Island IPA (from Chicago).   


The concessions sell Coca-Cola brand soft drinks and all kinds of domestic and premium beer in cans and on draft.  Beers run a hefty $15.  Soda is $7with a 20 oz bottle of water costing $6.


Fans can bring in sealed bottled water and small snacks.


I recommend getting your refreshments early as long queues occur during the game.


Atmosphere 5

Spring training games at Sloan Park are a pleasurable, fan-packed, social event.


Most seats have shade, needed for an afternoon start time.  If you prefer getting some rays, one section down the first base side gets the sun.  Seats are the traditional green stadium fold-down ones and have a comfortable width, decent legroom, and cup holders.  Two levels of seating are available, with the second level holding the press box, announcer, and suites.  Fans pack the grassy berms beyond the left field and right field fences. 


Sloan Park Berm Seating, Photo by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey


A Budweiser Rooftop down the left field line, where fans can enjoy the game day experience, overlooks the outfield.  While the inner concourse has a wide-open view to the field, you can’t always see the game in progress while walking the concourse.  The sheer volume of fans standing at the drink rails blocks the view.

 

Medium-thickness nets run down to the foul poles; the places to watch net-free baseball are the berms and the rooftop.

 

The organization replaced the scoreboard in 2023, which has improved the readability considerably.  Lighting engineers adjusted the background color and numbers, making it so much easier to read. Well done!  The scoreboard provides the starting lineups, the line score, and the photo, number, DOB, hometown, and position of the player at bat.  An analog clock sits atop the scoreboard, similar to the clock over the manual scoreboard at Wrigley Field.  Spring training games do not incorporate the use of video on the scoreboard.

 

The music person plays music while the PA announcer calls the starting lineup, a pet peeve of mine.  They do not play songs during the game, which is a relief.   Fans can converse and meet their neighbors without yelling.


Neighborhood 4

About a mile northeast of Sloan Park is the Mesa Riverview Shopping Center. This center contains several places to eat, a movie theater, and many stores, including a Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World. Restaurants include Cracker Barrel, Famous Dave’s BBQ, Henhouse Café (good for breakfast), Papago Brewing (beers), and plenty more.


A little over a mile west of Sloan Park (make a right on Rio Salado Pkwy out of the ballpark) is the Tempe Marketplace, an even larger shopping area. This shopping center contains 26 restaurants/places to eat, including the Thirsty Lion and Kings Fish House, multiple shops, and another movie theater. If shopping is your thing, this might be the place to go.

 

For places to stay near the ballpark, the Sheraton Mesa Hotel at Wrigleyville West and a Courtyard by Marriott are just beyond the right field berms. The Hyatt Place Phoenix/Mesa is adjacent to the Mesa Riverview Shopping Center (about 1.2 miles from the ballpark). A Hilton Garden Inn and a Homewood Suites are a mile the other way (west) of the ballpark. Hotel rooms in the area triple in price during spring training, so keep that in mind.

 

For other sports in the area, visit some of the other East Valley spring training stadiums: Hohokam Stadium (Oakland Athletics), Scottsdale Stadium (SF Giants), Salt River Fields (CO Rockies and AZ Diamondbacks), and Tempe Diablo Stadium (LA Angels).  

 

You can catch some ASU baseball or basketball, or head downtown to see a Suns game or an early-season Phoenix Rising FC match.


Fans 5

It is no secret that Cubs fans are some of the most loyal in sports, and they show it in their attendance at Sloan Park.  The stadium often sells out in the spring, exceeding 15,000 fans.  The fans show up several hours beforehand to tailgate, watch the team on the practice fields, and try to catch fly balls.  The stands are full of Cubbies blue. 


As at most spring training venues, fans are easy to talk with as they are there to socialize and enjoy a game on a warm AZ afternoon or evening.



Access 3

The stadium is at the intersection of Loop 101 and Loop 202 in Mesa, AZ (close to Tempe).  And while you’d think it would be easy getting to and from the venue, being right off two highways, it is not.  The city blocks off roads and turning lanes, causing drivers to make roundabout turns to get to and from the parking areas.  And it’s much more of a mess getting out after the game than into it.


Parking in paved and grass lots costs $10 to $20.  The venue offers plenty of handicapped parking at $20 a vehicle.  A designated rideshare spot is in front of the stadium.  Public transportation is available, though some walking is required.  Check Valley Metro for schedules and fares.  Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport is 8 miles from the stadium.


Sloan Park has four gates open for spring training.  Fans walk through a scanner for security purposes.  This 2024 season, bags up to 16” x 8” x 16” are allowed, though backpacks are not (even if they are clear).  The never-ending bag rules seem to change from season to season, so check their website before heading to the park.


Even though they are wide, the concourses are packed and congested because of the volume of fans. 

The venue has plenty of restrooms, all with diaper-changing tables. 


Return on Investment 3

Spring training tickets run from $29 (lawn) to $99 (infield box), depending on the opponent and day, which is far too high for a spring training game.  Parking costs $10 - $20, again, way too much for spring training.  Food prices are traditional MLB prices, with beers running $15 and a hot dog $7 - $9.


This is excessive to me, but fans pay it. 


Extras 5

Several additional items are worth noting about spring training in Mesa. 


The outfield area has a Kids Zone with a mini baseball field, and the left field upper deck showcases Cubs’ retired numbers.


Facsimiles of Wrigley Field abound at this ballpark.  Just inside the first base gate, you will find a replica of the famous Wrigley Field marquee, where an employee will put your personalized message on the message board. There are the rooftops.  An analog clock sits at the top of the scoreboard.  Clark, Waveland, and Sheffield Street names surround the stadium.  The field dimensions and design are similar to Wrigley, as is the unique curved outfield fence near the foul poles.


Sloan Park Outfield Curves, Photos by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey


Replacing the scoreboard is the best thing the city has done for the game day experience at Sloan Park.


Final Thoughts

Though it will cost a pretty penny, all baseball fans should try to take at least one trip to see the Cubs play at their spring training home in Mesa, AZ.


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