Museum group travels to Arizona for Cubs Spring Training

The Clubs, who once trained on Catalina, recently welcomed members of the Catalina Island Museum on a visit to the team’s Arizona facility. Photo courtesy Catalina Island Museum

For the Islander

Chicago Cubs spring training has been linked with Catalina Island since 1921 when William Wrigley Jr. first brought them out West to get ready for the season. Although the Cubs moved their spring training to Arizona in 1952, Catalina Island never lost its love for the Cubbies. For that reason, the Catalina Island Museum organized a special trip to the Phoenix area offering the unique opportunity to members of its Patrons Society and other close friends.

The inaugural Travel with the Catalina Island Museum excursion included a stay at the historic Arizona Biltmore, dinner and a tour at the nearby Wrigley Mansion, a tour of the Chicago Cubs spring training facility, Sloan Park, and prime seats to watch the Cubs take on the Cincinnati Reds. To top it off, Steve Schreiner, great-grandson of William Wrigley Jr., shared family stories about the Wrigley Mansion and the team.

Today, the Cubs are one of 15 teams utilizing the Phoenix area for spring training. However, many do not realize that the island shares another link with Phoenix through the Arizona Biltmore and the Wrigley Mansion.

Construction of the Arizona Biltmore began in 1924. The project quickly exceeded its budget and additional investors were sought. One of those was William Wrigley Jr. whose initial investment was $50,000. Over the course of the project, that investment increased. By the time the hotel opened in 1929, Wrigley was the majority stock holder. Once Wrigley was at the helm, he continued to make improvements to the hotel and its surrounding property. He enhanced the landscaping, finished the 18-hole golf course, constructed roads, built employee dormitories, added a bath house, and installed stables with stalls for more than 80 horses, just to name a few. One of the most beautiful additions was the installation of the Catalina Pool. Cited as Marilyn Monroe’s favorite pool and the location in which Irving Berlin penned “White Christmas,” the Catalina Pool was lined and bordered with glazed tiles specifically created by Catalina Clay Products.

Spending time in Arizona during the Biltmore project, Wrigley become entranced by the desert. In 1930, he began construction of the Wrigley Mansion which he called La Colina Solana (The Sunny Hill), a wedding anniversary gift for his beloved wife Ada. Original Catalina tile is featured throughout the home. It also shares some similarities to Mt. Ada, the family’s home in Avalon. This magnificent 23-room landmark home was completed in 1931 shortly before Wrigley’s death. It sits above the Biltmore and boasts expansive views of the Phoenix area and Camelback Mountain.

Sloan Park in Mesa, Arizona is now the home of the Cubs during spring training. The design of the ballpark was heavily influenced by Wrigley Field in Chicago. It also features historic Cubs graphics originally created by artists Otis and Dorothy Shepard, who were employed by the Wrigley family in the 1930s and 40s. Their artwork was used to promote not only the Cubs, but also Wrigley Gum and Catalina Island.

Additional Travel with the Catalina Island Museum trips are being planned, including a trip to Chicago to take in a Cubs game from the Catalina Club at Wrigley Field – set to open for the 2019 season. If you are interested in future opportunities to travel with the museum, you are encouraged to join its Patrons Society. More information can be found at catalinamuseum.org/patrons-society.

The Catalina Island Museum offers art and history exhibitions, music and performances, lectures by guest speakers from all over the world, and the finest in silent, documentary and international film. Open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., except New Year’s Day, July 4th, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day, the new Ada Blanche Wrigley Schreiner Building is located in the heart of Avalon at 217 Metropole Ave. For more information, call 310-510-2414 or visit CatalinaMuseum.org.

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