Spring at Cubs Park: What’s good and what were they thinking

Sloan Park in Mesa, AZ

Sloan Park in Mesa, AZ

As long-time Cubs fans, my husband and I decided to check out Mesa and the team’s  Sloan Park. As a travel writer, I was curious about what there was to do in Mesa and what the atmosphere was like in the Cubs new park. My husband was happy to accompany me to trade tax season for spring training for a few days. He also views travel destinations with a less critical eye than mine.

Game Day (hear the drum roll) started well. It was an easy drive from our Mesa Marriott hotel to Sloan Park, the Cubs Spring Training facility. It’s also known as “Wrigleyville West.”  And yes, there is a Waveland Avenue on the north side of the park, a Clark Street on the west side and Sheffield Avenue on the east.

But the best part is the well organized West Rio Salado Parkway, the road along the south side of the park. On game day through drivers could zoom past on outer lanes and parking access is on the ball park side lanes.

For directions, a map and notes about what can and cannot be brought into the park, visit Chicago Cubs MLB Guide.

Folks who didn’t want to pay the $10 grass close-in parking fee or the $5 fee for further away and who didn’t have VIP and handicapped cards for even closer parking on a paved lot, could pull into either of two shopping malls that had free trolley rides.

Pregame ceremony on the field at Sloan Park

Pregame ceremony on the field at Sloan Park

The closest mall is Riverview Park directly across from Sloan Park in Mesa which is within easy walking distance. The other shopping mall is Tempe Marketplace down the road just west of the 101 highway in Tempe which needs the Trolley.

What we needed was access to the Sheraton Mesa Hotel in the Sloan Park complex. I needed to check it out as a place to stay for people going to Cub games. The hotel access is from both Riverview Road and the $10 lot that also says “hotel.”

I liked the Marriott where we were staying because it was within walking distance of downtown Mesa and also near Gilbert, a growing town with lots of restaurant and bar choices.

However, the Sheraton is sparkling new, actually in Sloan Park, has the Stats Restaurant for post game craft beers, bar food and lots of TVs. It also has the excellent, upscale Legends Steak restaurant for meat lovers.

The Sheraton is just off the 202 and 101 Loops, two highways with good access to the Phoenix airport, attractions and other area towns such as Scottsdale.

Two restaurants in Mesa Sheraton attract post game diners

Two restaurants in Mesa Sheraton attract post game diners

As to what were they thinking, Sloan Park, a large stadium that seats 15,000 people (including grass) feels more like Wrigley Field than the Cubs’ former Hohokam Stadium. I miss Hohokam’s informality and the friendliness of the players who walked around before a game.

My husband is fine with “Wrigelyville West.” Even with three times the seating area, Sloan Park sells out. Best plan is to get tickets as soon as they go on sale.

To get autographs here, fans line up before a game along a narrow path from the clubhouse to near the Home Plate Gate. Tip: Get hand stamped so you can leave the park during the game when starters leave. That way you might get an autograph back at the path.

Hohokam Stadium, the 10,000 seat (counting the  grass area) facility in a nearby Mesa residential area, still nicely serves as a MLB spring training facility. Since 2015 it has become the winter home of the Oakland As. To visit the Cubs former stadium, click AsHohokam.

I also have a problem with the cost of food at Sloan Park even though it features Chicago style ballpark eats and popular Chicago vendors including a restaurant  known for its Italian beef sandwiches.

A hot dog at a stand just inside the home plate gate cost $5 but was tiny and in a tiny bun with no room to add relish, pickles or onions. The Italian beef from a well known restaurant was $10 but came only with peppers and no sides.

Cub fan relaxes before game at Mesa Sheraton Hotel

Cub fan relaxes before game at Mesa Sheraton Hotel

 

 

 

Outside food is not allowed in the stadium. A water bottle that still has its sealed factory plastic wrap is allowed.

So, check out the food offered at other parks. The Mesa, Phoenix, Scottsdale area is the spring training home of 14 MLB teams. It’s fun to see your team at the other stadiums. To see the Chicago White Sox information go to Glendale.

 

 

 

 

All photos copyright 2016, Jodie Jacobs

 

 

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