The Cubs' ballpark in Mesa opened in 2014 by hosting a record number of spring training fans in its debut season.
The Cubs' new ballpark in Mesa was the big story for 2014, as the debut of Cubs Park drew big crowds -- record breaking, in fact -- to the team's $84 million complex, which was funded in full by the city that had built the team their previous spring training home, Hohokam Park, just 17 years prior.
The Cubs' 3.3-mile move within Mesa culminated in them being restored as the kingpins of the Cactus League, at least as far as attendance is concerned, as 15,000-person capacity Cubs Park (renamed Sloan Park in January 2015) became the biggest ballpark ever to be built for spring training, which enabled the team to set all-time spring training records for total (213,815) and per game (14,254) attendance. Once the longtime league leader in both crowd counts, the Cubs led the Arizona circuit in average attendance for the first time since 2010 and total attendance for the first time since 2009.
Thanks to the Cubs' contributions, the 219 spring training games played in Arizona ballparks averaged a Cactus League-record 7,761 fans per game, which was an increase of 924 from 2013. Total attendance was 1,699,650, with games played in 11 ballparks by 15 teams. Three games were rained out, all on March 1. Two of the league's games were played at the Diamondbacks' Chase Field and they added 32,889 fans to the 2014 Cactus League total.
In the Grapefruit League, 216 games were played by 15 teams in 14 ballparks. Total attendance was 1,473,260, an average of 6,821 per game. While 13 games were rained out, the 2014 Grapefruit League tally did have 21,563 added to it, as that's how many tickets were sold to the small number of games between Major League clubs and collegiate teams.
Overall, spring training in Arizona and Florida drew 3,172,910 fans to 435 games in 2014, which equates to an average gate of 7,294.
The highest single game crowd for the season was 15,276 for the Angels-Cubs on March 25 at Cubs Park, where a dozen times the Cubs hosted crowds of over 13,721, which was the previous largest crowd to ever attend a game at a spring training ballpark.
While 2014 represented a new beginning for the Cubs in Mesa, it was the swan song season for Phoenix Municipal Stadium, the oldest original structure still used for Cactus or Grapefruit League games. The A's had played at "Muni" since 1982, and their finale at the 1964-opened venue drew 5,033 on March 26. Starting in 2015, the stadium became home to Arizona State University's baseball team, while the A's got to take over what the Cubs left behind in Mesa, Hohokam Park, where many millions were spent in 2014 to remake the stadium and its nearby training complex ready for Oakland's move in.
With Phoenix Muni at last a stadium of spring training's past, Lakeland's Joker Marchant Stadium, site of Tigers games since 1966, became the granddaddy of actual exhibition season stadiums post 2014, although the site of the Pirates' present park has been hosting major league games since 1923. McKechnie Field, however, was substantially rebuilt in 1993. The one ballpark that did see renovations done to it for 2014 was the Twins' Hammond Stadium, where the first phase of a two-year overhaul increased its capacity by 1,200 thanks to the addition of an outfield berm and seating.
2014 Attendance Rankings
(home games only, ranked by per game average)
At the conclusion of 2014, Graham Knight had been to spring training in Florida 16 times and had made 6 visits to Arizona for the same purpose. In 2009, he completed the hard to complete task of seeing a game in each of the 26 spring training ballparks in use that year by Cactus and Grapefruit League teams. He has seen multiple games in every current spring training ballpark and has visited the practice complexes used by each team. In addition to the ballpark guides he has written for this Web site, Knight has published the Arizona Spring Training Ballpark Guide and released a Florida edition for fans wanting the full lowdown on Grapefruit League ballparks.