Cubs' Mesa spring training facility finally breaks ground

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

MESA, Ariz. -- It’s a moment Mesa city leaders and nearby business owners have been anxiously awaiting. The $99 million Cubs spring training facility finally broke ground Wednesday.

“This is a celebration of great work done by city leadership,” said Cubs President Crane Kenney.

When the new facility opens in 2014 it will feature practice fields next door to the stadium where the Cubs play their spring training games. The Cubs will no longer have to drive to HoHoKam stadium, the reason why they started talk of leaving for Florida in 2009.

“It’s more than just getting a new ballpark that’s getting some neat bells and whistles. It is really the training facilities we lack that will be improved,” said Kenney.

Mesa leaders struck out trying to get funding at the capital when other Cactus League teams rallied against a proposal that would have had the state footing the bill for the complex.

Instead, Mesa voters approved funding through the Mesa business enterprise fund. The sale of land will pay for $84 million of the project. Anything above that will be paid for by the Cubs. The project was billed as a way to bring in money to the city of Mesa.

“The Cactus League brings in tens of thousands of people, tourists who spend a lot of money. This is hundreds of millions of dollars in economic impact,” said Mesa Mayor Scott Smith. “We believe this is a major piece of creating a river front economic zone.”

The idea is that people who attend spring training games will spill over into nearby restaurants, bars and shops.

David Mattas, owner of the nearby Mesa fixture Matta's restaurant hopes the ballpark will help cook up business. His family restaurant has been in Mesa nearly 60 years, but business has struggled a little bit at the new location near the ball park.

“It was a little bit hard to find us when we first opened up here, but I think with the Cubs stadium and the advertising they will do, it will create more business for us,” said Mattas.