MESA, Ariz. -- It may sound crazy to Chicagoans shivering through a miserable winter, but during ribbon-cutting ceremonies Wednesday for their new spring training ballpark, the Cubs and local government officials were promoting one of its prime attributes -- seats in the shade.
While drawing up plans for Cubs Park, they learned a valuable lesson from Camelback Park, the stadium the White Sox and Dodgers share in Glendale. Camelback is one of the best in the Cactus League, except on days when fans in the prime seats are broiling in the heat.
"Creating shade was important," Mesa Mayor Scott Smith said. "Arizona is wonderful in March, but anyplace, especially when you're coming out of a cold winter, you sit in the sun and it can get a little warm.
"Our fans told us the thing they appreciated most was shade and the ability to enjoy the game without discomfort. So by the time we hit (the 1 p.m. starting time for Cactus League games), 90 percent of the stadium will be in shade. The field will be totally sun-bathed. Absolutely it was part of our design concept."
After a long and rocky road to get a new spring training complex funded, the Cubs hit one out of the park with Cubs Park, which has its first game Feb. 27 against the Diamondbacks.
It features some of the elements of Wrigley Field such as the scoreboard clock, the outfield wells and the brick walls from dugout to dugout. But it's generally in the mode of Talking Stick, the park the Rockies and Diamondbacks share in Scottsdale that is considered the best in Arizona.
There were missteps along the way, but in the end the Cubs got their stadium and the Cactus League got to keep one of its best drawing cards from leaving for Naples, Fla.
"The Cubs had options and made it very clear what their expectations were," Smith said. "We said: 'We think 50 years (of spring training in Arizona) means something, so give us a chance to perform, and if we don't perform, go exercise your other options. If we do perform, you won't regret it.' "
Did Smith think the Cubs were bluffing to get the best deal possible?
"They had good enough options," he said. "The Florida group was substantial. I'm convinced it was real, and if Mesa had not been able to come through (with a $99 million funding package), the odds are, yes, they would have been gone.
"That would have been unfortunate for the community, and I think it would have been unfortunate for the Cubs because Mesa is their winter home. ... (But) they gave us the chance, and we stepped up as a community and made it happen."
If only the Cubs could have convinced the rooftop owners last year they were serious about moving from Wrigley Field, perhaps they could have forced an ending to their seemingly never-ending battle over signage.
It's too late now. Chicago has given the Cubs reason to stay, approving outfield signage and a large video board meant to bring in the kind of revenues the Cubs maintain were needed to compete.
The only hold-up now is the threat of a lawsuit from the "roofies." The Cubs firmly believe they would win, a team source said, but they also know it could drag on for years in the courts.
"We're just working through ideas that might work for everyone," Chairman Tom Ricketts said. "The key is (to) look at this place here. When people work together, and they really focus on what they can accomplish together, you see great results. This is a great example of that."
Smith, who is running for governor of Arizona, said he was talking about the Wrigley stalemate one day with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and recalled "the immortal words of the great philosopher, Larry the Cable Guy," who is still big in these parts:
"Just get 'er done."
The rooftop owners, however, may prefer the immortal words of another great philosopher, Rod Tidwell from "Jerry Maguire:"
"Show me the money."
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