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A Cubs Fan's Return To HoHoKam Park

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The former spring home of the Cubs has been renovated for the Oakland A's.

MESA, Arizona -- For 35 seasons, the Cubs called a ballpark at 1235 N. Center Street in Mesa home for their spring-training games. The original HoHoKam Park opened in 1979 and closed after the 1996 spring campaign, and was replaced by a larger edifice on the same site in time for spring 1997.

The Cubs played their last spring-training game there March 28, 2013. Here's a gallery of photos from that final Cubs day as the home team at HoHoKam, an interesting comparison to this one.

Last spring the Cubs moved into their new facility in Mesa, now named Sloan Park, and the city of Mesa embarked on a $20 million refurbishing of HoHoKam Park -- now officially called HoHoKam Stadium -- to be the spring home of the Oakland Athletics.

The A's and the city of Mesa hosted "A Day At The Diamond" Saturday afternoon and it was a bit surreal to walk into a place that had been so familiar to me and see how different it looked decked out in the green-and-gold of the A's. I estimate I went to the two Cub versions of HoHoKam well over 100 times over its years of existence, so walking around the place felt normal, yet odd. The two large seating sections near the left-field and right-field corners have been removed, shrinking the official seating capacity from 12,500 to 10,500, which should make for many sellouts for the loyal, but smaller-than-the-Cubs fanbase from Oakland. Those areas have been turned into party decks (photos 4 and 11), one with artificial turf, the other without.

The stadium has a gorgeous new scoreboard which occupies the same space the board did when the Cubs were the home team, except this board is all video with no fixed ads on the sides. It's very bright and visible from everywhere in the ballpark. The team store, also in the location that used to be called the "Cubbie Hole," is well-stocked with A's and spring-training items with prices comparable to Sloan Park (likely a result of the vendor setting prices).

There are four large boards painted green at the back of the right-field berm that did not exist when the Cubs played there (photo 14). I'm thinking these will probably have ads on them when spring training begins.

The afternoon also included play areas for kids set up in the parking lot, right near the area where Javier Baez once landed a home run that cleared the old scoreboard (it would have cleared the new one, too), and A's players signing autographs (photos 15 and 19).

Congrats to the A's on their great new spring-training home. Their fans, I think, will love it as much as Cubs fans did for more than three decades. The city of Mesa did an outstanding job on this renovation. The Cubs will have their first date as the visiting team at HoHoKam when they travel there to face the A's Tuesday, March 24. That game won't be televised so you'll have to be content to listen that afternoon on cubs.com. There ought to be an enormous contingent of Cubs fans returning to HoHoKam that day, though. I'll bring my camera and post photos.