With the Chicago Cubs firmly entrenched in their new confines in Mesa, Hohokam Stadium and Fitch Park are undergoing serious upgrades to prepare for their next tenant, who expect to move in later this year.
Both the stadium and the park are in the midst of $20 million revamp to prepare for the Oakland A’s, who are scheduled to move into both facilities by the end of 2014 or early 2015 in advance of the 2015 Cactus League season. This will mark a return to Mesa for Oakland, which played at Hohokam in the late ’70s before moving to Scottsdale Stadium and Phoenix Municipal Stadium. The team has played spring training games in Phoenix Municipal Stadium for 32 years.
Part of the 20-year lease agreement that moved the Oakland A’s to Mesa involved the renovation of Fitch Park and Hohokam Stadium, with the city paying approximately $17.5 million and the team covering the remaining $2.5 million as well as any expenses above the $20 million figure.
The project for both facilities is pretty large scale, with Fitch Park adding fields with natural grass and artificial turf, new hydrotherapy facilities, a better weight room and a number of other amenities for training purposes. The team will use Fitch Park throughout the year for minor-league purposes and as a general training area.
“Fitch Park will be a top-notch training facility,” said Gensler Project Director Jason Boyer, whose company serves as the project’s architect.
Completion of the park is scheduled for December 2014, which would be approximately a month after the completion of Hohokam Stadium. Boyer said that portion of the project entails a large clubhouse for players, a hi-tech video board and the addition of green and gold paint to create what he called an “Oakland vibe.”
A rather notable change for the stadium comes from the removal of bleacher seats and the addition of more shaded areas and seats between 20 and 22 inches wide. The result is a reduction in the seating from the stadium’s current 12,500 total to around 10,500, which Boyer attributed in part to the relatively low popularity of the A’s when compared with the Cubs.
Mesa City Manager Chris Brady said the agreement with Oakland worked out for the city, which gets to keep the facilities in lieu of a full rebuild — Brady mentioned interest from soccer teams in the facilities — while maintaining a “good facility.”
“It’s so much easier to reuse it for a similar purpose,” he said.
The renovation of the A’s spring stadium comes amid issues the team has had with its Major League facility, O.co Coliseum, in California. The team has spent recent years attempting to move away from Oakland and to neighboring San Jose and has clashed with the city over the lease and the state of the coliseum, including a series of sewage leakages, according to a Big League Stew article.
“Hopefully we’ll be doing this (moving) somewhere else real soon,” Director of Minor League Operations Ted Polakowski said in reference to the Oakland issues.