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Athletics' HoHoKam Renovation Could Include 'Grotto Bar'

The A's and the city of Mesa, Arizona are nearing an agreement that would bring the Oakland franchise to HoHoKam Stadium for spring training for 20 years, beginning in 2015.

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The Cubs will be leaving HoHoKam Stadium after this year's spring-training season to move into their own new complex in Mesa. But that won't be the end for HoHoKam -- and the facilities at Fitch Park -- because the Oakland Athletics are very close to signing a deal to move in, starting with the 2015 season. Details from the Arizona Republic:

Mesa figures it will cost about $2O million to make Hohokam and the nearby training facilities at Fitch Park suitable for the A’s.

Some of that is what Mesa would have spent anyway had the Cubs stayed there, and some is triggered by Oakland’s desire for a more intimate fan experience.

Oakland, which typically draws smaller crowds than the Cubs, wants to reduce the number of seats and is contemplating fan amenities such as a "grotto bar" in the outfield berm area.

Mesa is looking for $8 million from the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority to help finish this renovation project; the Authority was created in 2000 to help fund the Arizona Cardinals stadium, as well as spring-training parks in the Valley of the Sun:

Mesa is committed to providing the first $15 million. The city and the A’s will split the remainder up to $2O million, and the team will pay all costs above $2O million.

Mesa is now lobbying the Sports and Tourism Authority for the $8 million, which would go toward the city’s share of the Hohokam renovations.

Most interesting is the "grotto bar" idea; the article is correct in saying the A's typically draw fewer fans than the Cubs do. Current capacity at HoHoKam is 13,074; the renovations could bring it down to the 9,000-10,000 range. The Cubs averaged 9,580 per date there in 2012, while the A's averaged 5,798 per date last spring at their current home, Phoenix Municipal Stadium, which has a capacity of about 8,500, with no grass berm (it's the only Cactus League park without one).

The Cubs' last home game at HoHoKam will be Thursday, March 28 against the Seattle Mariners. It will be very strange, in 2015, to return there when the Cubs play the A's as visitors.