MESA, Arizona -- Spring training has wrapped up at Cubs Park for 2014 but there's plenty of activity at the former spring home of the Cubs, four miles to the west, at HoHoKam Park.
Gary Nelson at the Arizona Republic wrote this article about the HoHoKam Park renovations a couple of days ago; that prompted me to hie myself over to Mesa Friday morning to have a look at the park where I spent 17 springs (and many before that at the old HoHoKam, at the same location).
The place looks and feels weird, the baseball version of an Old West ghost town. Almost everything is still in place from the Cubs' last game there a year ago -- except all the seats, which have been removed... the seats only, not the posts connecting them to the concrete beneath, which gives an even stranger look and feel. All the turf has been removed, but as you can see by the photos above, the infield dirt remains. The grass on the berm, untended this spring, has turned brown.
Obviously, they are just in the beginning stages of making HoHoKam the Oakland Athletics' spring home, starting next season; here, from the Republic article above, are some of the highlights of what A's fans will find a year from now:
The clubhouse will more than double in size, with new weight-training and hydrotherapy facilities, meeting and dining space and revamped team offices. The four existing full-size baseball fields are bare dirt now in preparation for new drainage, irrigation and surfaces. A smaller "agility field," partly sod and partly artificial turf, is being added. The 55,000 square feet of clubhouse space will seem like a palace compared with the 17,000 square feet the A's now have at Papago Park. The clubhouse will get an external makeover as well. At present it's a blandly designed building with no visual cues that it's a baseball hub. The A's will add a dramatic entrance unmistakably signaling their presence. As for the stadium, almost nothing in its generic design or remaining decor suggests it was the home of a particular major-league team. The A's aim to change that with the bold use of color and signage. "The entire skin of the building changes color and complexity," [architect Jason] Boyer said. "It's consistently branded with city of Mesa and Oakland Athletics vibe." The main gate will move to Hohokam's southwestern corner, and the large interior concourse will be brightened with new lighting and displays. Big changes also are in store for the stadium bowl, which has an intimate feel despite its current 13,000-fan capacity. The A's will replace left- and right-field bleachers with shaded plazas that can host large groups, barbecues and other events. Overall stadium capacity will shrink to 10,500. The scoreboard will be replaced by a dazzling 26- by 56-foot video board.
It will be strange to return to HoHoKam Park a year from now as a fan of the visiting team. The park will be much the same... just updated, with a few different looks, yet at the same place I've attended spring games since the 1980s. Good luck to the A's in their new home.