The Riverview Golf Course in Mesa never will make Golf Digest's Top 100, but Cubs fans taking clubs to spring training this year should play the nine-hole municipal layout.
When standing at the No. 5 tee, this is where the batter's box will be in the stadium part of "Wrigleyville West." "This spring is the last chance to play the course," said Scott Rigby, an economic project manager for Mesa. "We expect to be doing major earth work in April or May."
This Riverview has some entertainment spots and shopping already in place with anchor stores such as Bass Pro Shop, Home Depot, Bed Bath & Beyond, Petco, Wal-Mart, Marshall's, OfficeMax, Sports Authority and Jo-Ann Fabrics open. There is a Cinemark Theatre complex, Hyatt Place and Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill among 20 restaurants and more specialty shops.
"If the people are coming here like they have for years, let's give them more things to do," said Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, noting his city's strong snowbird bond with Chicago. "Spring training is changing from a nonchalant, lazy-day affair."
During the campaign in 2010 to get a stadium referendum passed, Smith, a native Arizonan, said he continually was amazed at the number of Mesa residents feeling an attachment to the Cubs. The city has been the team's spring home continuously since 1977 and for 13 earlier years dating from 1952.
Mesa is Arizona's third-largest city, with a population of approximately 440,000. Officials have been itching to turn Riverview into an even larger multipurpose attraction for residents and visitors alike with the Cubs as a magnet.
At one time, the area was considered a possibility for the Arizona Cardinals football stadium. There's another 25-acre site that includes softball fields, and the city wants this to become something complementary, such as a themed resort.
A small lake is being reconfigured to make room for the baseball stadium. The golf course's trees will be boxed and placed in a nursery until the project is near completion, Rigby added. "Then they'll be replanted within the new site and will help to give the sense that the stadium has a much more established feel," he said.
If you go
For those making the trip to the Phoenix area for spring baseball, here's what you need to know.
The Visit Mesa site lists hotels offering baseball tickets with discount hotel packages at visitmesa.com/baseball. Here is a site that promotes vacation condos in several Valley cities: azvacationcondos.com. The state tourism site also hosts a lodging guide online: arizonaguide.com/hotels-lodging.
Are you kidding? There are hundreds of courses in the area available to the public, from municipal layouts to lush, semiprivate facilities. You can rent clubs at many. Here is a good site to help (and look for discount coupons): arizonagolfer.com. The PGA tour comes too early for baseball, but the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup tourney is March 12-18 at the Desert Ridge JW Marriott resort in Phoenix.
The Valley of the Sun also could be called the Valley of Museums. Here's a sampling: The Arizona Historical Society's facility in Tempe (arizonahistoricalsociety.org/museums gives a good overview; The Heard (heard.org in Phoenix has an impressive Native-American collection (plus an excellent courtyard cafe). The Children's Museum in Phoenix (childrensmuseumofphoenix.org is in the Monroe School building in downtown Phoenix. With an IMAX theater and 120,000 square feet of exhibits, The Arizona Science Center (azscience.org in downtown Phoenix is a good visit. The most complete collection surrounding legendary Chicago architect Frank Lloyd Wright can be found at his western headquarters, Taliesin West, in Scottsdale (franklloydwright.org.
Let the kids run loose
Amazing Jake's in Mesa (amazingjakes.com is 95,000 square feet of indoor amusement park with an all-you-can-eat buffet.