Cubs’ Stadium Is a Big Draw in Mesa, Arizona

The iconic marquee outside Wrigley Field routinely stops traffic, whether it’s gawkers slowly driving down North Clark Street or tourists spilling out in front of cars to get the best angles for their photos. About 1,700 miles away, the Chicago Cubs have created an experience reminiscent of Wrigley (minus the dangerous traffic) for their fans willing to migrate southwest for the winter. Sloan Park, the Cubs’ $99 million spring training home in Mesa, Arizona, opened in 2014. While the field isn’t a complete replica of Wrigley—the outfield seating is grass, not bleachers, and there aren’t any L trains zooming beyond the right field wall—its rooftop lights and brickwork behind home plate are a clear homage to the Cubs’ legendary Chicago facility. And then there’s the marquee. "We have a replica of the Wrigley Field marquee, but it sits on the concourse,” says Justin Piper, general manager of spring training business operations for the Cubs, who adds that custom marquee messages can be displayed for guests to take a photo with. It’s all part of a fan experience the Cubs are banking on to create repeat customers— and a lot of them. At 15,000 seats, Sloan Park is the largest stadium in the 15-team spring training Cactus League. The Cubs made a 30-year development deal with Mesa to create the facility, which features the main stadium, a player performance center and seven practice fields built atop an old golf course. The club’s major league squad and prospects use the facility in the early months of the year for spring training. Then the AZL Cubs— Chicago’s short-season class-A squad—take over Sloan Park for home games from June through Labor Day. The Mesa Solar Sox use Sloan Park as their home field for the Arizona Fall League, which wraps up this week. But with 140 acres of land, Piper says the Cubs have been able to repurpose the facility for several other events. The complex hosted college baseball’s Pac-12/Big 12 Tournament in February and The Great Arizona Beer Festival in April on the grounds outside the park. The grounds, which can be rented out through the Cubs, have also held graduation ceremonies and charitable walks. Inside the stadium, fans coming for a game-day experience can expect an open design where they can get close to the players, several entertainment options for their kids (including a climbing wall and a turf Wiffle ball field), food-and-beverage offerings reminiscent of Wrigley and a little local Mesa flavor. "Mesa has historically had a strong citrus trade, so we [incorporated] a citrus grove,” Piper says. “But in the citrus grove, we pull in food trucks and offer unique food and beverage every game. "We were really looking for a modern facility for both the player development side of the business and the spring training fan experience,” Piper says. “When a fan comes to Sloan Park for spring training, they know they're going to see the Chicago Cubs."