HoHoKam: The Once and Future Spring

Just one day before I arrived here in the Valley of the Sun, the A’s had a media reveal at HoHoKam Stadium, the new spring training home for the team starting in 2015. Reporters gathered in the parking lot of the teamless stadium and were shown images of what HoHoKam will look like next year. Saturday morning I took some time to check out the renovation’s progress.

A previous venue called HoHoKam Park (née Rendezvous Park) hosted the A’s during the 70’s. As you might imagine, the park was far more modest than many of the palatial digs of today’s Cactus League.

Rendezvous Park

The Cubs moved to HoHoKam in the 1978 and haven’t left the city since. HoHoKam was relocated to the west in 1997, yielding at the time a large, superior stadium compared to its peers. HoHoKam had a berm wrapping around the outfield, 13,000 seats, plenty of concourse space, even suites. This year the Cubs opened Cubs Park, still in Mesa but closer to the Tempe border. The A’s, who had unsuccessfully tried to work with the City of Phoenix to get improvements for Phoenix Municipal Stadium, turned their attention to Mesa and worked out a deal to be the new tenants at HoHoKam and Fitch Park, the training complex.

Piles of dirt stood in front of the entrances, evidence of trenching. The grass field has been removed, as have most of the stadium seats. Eventually the bleachers down the lines will be removed and replaced with roofed bars. The scoreboard will be replaced as well. A big change at HoHoKam will be green and gold paint and materials along the exterior. The very beige, very-90’s façade will get a major pop of color and a real sense of identity in the process. The small tower at the home plate gate will feature a big “A’s” logo.

hohokam-12-new_gate27

New look for HoHoKam comes with strong A’s colors

The existing beige clashes in a big way with green and gold, so there’s hope that the whole place will get a proper paint job that matches. If you look closely, the pic on the right shows a #27 above the entrance, a nod to the late, great Catfish Hunter. That isn’t the only tribute in store.

hohokam-11-new_gate24

Third base “24” gate as part of renovated façade

It makes sense that Rickey’s gate is outside third base, right? I’m sure that at first naming/numbering gates in this manner will sound weird from a wayfaring standpoint, but I’d love to see all of the gates treated like this. If you know HoHoKam, you know that there are two more fan gates in the left field corner and outside first base that could also be numbered. Who should get the honor?

Despite being one of the largest Cactus League ballparks, HoHokam managed to maintain a level of intimacy due to its traditional concourse design, where fans move from the concourse to the grandstand through tunnels. There’s no 360-degree view from the concourse, and no fancy detached club level. Capacity will be reduced to 10,500, making HoHoKam a middle-of-the-pack ballpark in terms of size. Other plans called for extending the outer boundary fence so that the grounds can be larger in order to accommodate food trucks. That’s a good alternative to the food tents seen at some of the other parks. The fact that the architect in charge of HoHoKam is the same one who did the Muni renovation over a decade ago is a good sign. Muni still looks as good as it can get in spite of its old bones. This gives me hope for some boldness when it comes to the A’s future stadium in the Bay Area – one that isn’t handcuffed by having to share it with a football team.

I didn’t visit Fitch Park, the other half of the A’s-Mesa deal. Most of the work there will be focused on improving the training facilities for the A’s, under-the-hood types of improvements that benefit players, not so much fans.

Sadly, the lovely view of Papago Park that came with games at Muni will not be moving to Mesa with the A’s. That said, it’ll be nice to see a bunch of fans lazing on the berm. My brother’s buying a house in Mesa, and when I stay there during the spring I’ll be able to bike from his house to HoHoKam along a canal trail. I can’t think of a better way of spending time during March.

25 thoughts on “HoHoKam: The Once and Future Spring

  1. other gate #s could be #34 for both rollie/stew and #43 for eck…rollie and eck both being hof.

    one nice feature that i like hohokam has but phx didn’t was outfield seating. sure the backdrop to phx was nice but i love having sort of a “bleachers” when looking out and it’ll be great for fans who sit there.

    once the a’s get a new park of their own eventually hopefully they’ll do the same thing while also putting up some statues too.

  2. Hohokam is shaping up to be damned fine park for the A’s. Maybe they can just play there permanently if the Raiders kick hem out of the Coliseum… Seriously though between coming up through a system that has Raley field, arguably one of the finest MiLB parks in the US, and then a spring home as nice as renovated Hohokam/Fitch Park is going to be, I pity the A’s players who suddenly find themselves in decaying squalor when they finally reach what should be the apex of their careers at “the show” at the Coliseum.

  3. Could not have said it better myself Dan. For the Giants it’s opposite: the squalor of SJ Muni to the magnificence of AT&T Park. Our A’s? Well, you said it! Some day all, some day…

  4. You guys nailed it, its sad when your spring training and minor league parks are better than the parent clubs.

  5. I can’t wait to catch a game at HoHoKam

  6. Always liked HoHoKam a lot. I didn’t think the Cubs needed a new yard, except for their complaints about not having the practice fields in the same complex. It should serve the A’s well for years.

    Only issue I ever had there was the traffic for sold-out games, but you learn quickly to get there an hour early (or to use one of the back ways in.) may not even be an issue with reduced capacity.

    Best lawn in the Cactus league…

  7. Speaking of designs for a future A’s baseball-only stadium in the Bay Area, I’m hoping for architectural references to the front facade of Shibe Park/Connie Mack Stadium.

  8. you have to question why when they renvoated phx muni nearly a decade ago why they didn’t put seats beyond the of walls. looks as they had plenty of room to do it? if you added another couple thousands seats there along maybe that could’ve prolonged the a’s stay there.

    though with the cubs moving out of hohokam to their sparkling new st venue it was probably inevitable for the a’s to move to their old facilities since even an expanded renoation of phx muni and the surrounding baseball facilities still would’ve made it a less of a venue than what the a’s are moving into.

  9. I know this is off subject im sure ml might touch on this. But at the owner meeting mark davis says he is willing to move to L.A if Colony Capital/Oakland pols cant put up their portion for a new stadium. ..have to say..maybe Mark has balls like his dad to move to L.A…lew wolff really should just move to san jose and fuck a lawsuit…seriously

  10. Is there any way Lew Wolff would sign onto the CC plan with Oakland Raiders?

    The A’s could share AT&T as their new stadium is built in Oakland. Why does this not work for Wolff, anyone?

  11. @ Steven,

    Probably would take reading every thread of this entire blog since 2005 to get the answer to your question. Too much to go over with a single, simple answer…

  12. @Steven – If the numbers work out. That’s not likely.

  13. @Steven: as ML pointed out – the city of Oakland Coli and Arena debt issues looms over both the CC and HT projects(especially an HT ballpark)Both debts will need to addressed along with the other expenses for a Raider’s and/or A’s ballpark in Oakland :(

  14. @ RM or Duffer,
    What’s the outstanding debt balance for the arena? Never thought of that being part of the equation.

  15. From a prior post:

    “If you were an unabashed supporter of Coliseum City, things didn’t get off on the right foot as AlCo District 5 Supervisor and Board President Keith Carson demanded to know the state of the Coliseum’s outstanding debt. Oakland City Council President Pat Kernighan tried to reel the discussion back in, but Carson insisted, and eventually he got what he wanted – a plain telling of debt for both the stadium ($113,790,000) and arena ($90,290,000) by County Auditor Pat O’Connell, who also happens to be the JPA’s auditor. That’s $200 million combined for the complex, though that figure goes down every year thanks to a $20 million annual debt and operating subsidy paid by City and County.”

    http://newballpark.org/2013/12/03/the-adult-conversation-at-last/

  16. Well, JQ already missed one deadline. The next one is coming up this summer. I don’t like MD but he is not LW and not acting like LW. He wanted an answer in Dec, did not get one. Now he is giving JQ another chance. This will be it for Oakland if JQ does not come up with real money.

  17. Any idea what amount of the $20 million annual Coli debt payment is actual principle vs interest?

  18. @daniel, Mark Davis will give it until this fall to get a stadium deal done. If not, MD will likely put in a bid to the NFL requesting a move to LA. However, the NFL may want for the Raiders to first move to Santa Clara on a trial basis.

  19. @Tony D – Most of the interest is already paid off. Now it’s principal payments of $8-11 million per year plus <$100k in interest. The rest of the $20+ million is used for the stadium's operating subsidy. Lease payments from both teams don't come close to recovering the Coli's operating cost.

  20. Here’s some speculation: Oakland sells nearly 200 acres of prized development land (Coliseum City + surrounding area) to pay off debt. Afterwards, Oakland enters into an agreement with Raiders to have investors build a new stadium, while pitching to Lew Wolff. Phase I gets built. A’s move to AT&T as they wait for a new ballpark to be built in Oakland during Phase II or III. A’s stay in Oakland to play at Coliseum City. The problem with this is that for investors to make a profit, they’d need to make money on developing nearby land, something Lew Wolff hopes to do himself. Right?

  21. Sorry I meant to post the below comment on this thread and not the last one.
    Mark Davis says it’s almost imposable for the A’s to play in the old coliseum, while a new one is being built (so much for those place holders Mayor), it would seem that Oakland may have a choice to make in the very near future, if the Raiders stadium can pencil out.
    The Oakland Athletics 5-10 year lease extension, with no commitment to coliseum city or anywhere in Oakland/Alameda County.
    The Oakland Raiders will be main tenant in coliseum city build new coliseum, which will keep the team in Oakland for 30-40 years or longer.
    As I have been saying for some time, Oakland would be stupid to go with the A’s, if Wolff’s proposal is give me a 5-10 year lease extension, and “I might think about developing the coliseum property , not really sure, we will have to think about it”.
    Again this may be the one and only time that Oakland should actually put the Raiders before the A’s, which is a shame because up to this point the A’s have deserved so much better than they have received from Oakland and its politicians, but if this is true the Raiders willing to make a commitment, and the A’s not willing to make a commitment it’s a no brainer…

  22. Another theory: Lew Wolff wants to stay in Oakland if he can guide the development process for the new ballpark at Coliseum City, which explains wanting a 10 year lease because it will give him leverage in future negotiations. Oakland is considering granting him the 10 year lease, making Mark Davis super upset in recent reports. I doubt Davis isn’t about to actually leave for LA so Oakland is pretty much calling his bluff. Oakland will find a way to develop the project so the old Coliseum City can stay in place as they build the new football stadium. This theory is shot down if Oakland signs deal with Raiders before extending lease with A’s.

  23. @Steven: wrong. Oakland is only interested in locking down a lease because they only care about a lease. Oakland believes if they can get a team to sign, it means the team will have to stay in Oakland. Oakland has no interest or the money to do anything. Oakland believes the A’s now the Raiders have no other options.

  24. @ Steven,

    Like the Warriors, Lew Wolff doesn’t want to stay in Oakland. But we are all free to speculate about him yearning to develop all that vast landscape in East Oakland…

    (even if the Raiders are finding the going extremely tough and frustrating)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s