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AN Mailbag #2: New Spring Training Home?

A reader asks about the A's potential Spring Training move from Phoenix to Mesa.

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Reporting in Arizona outlets indicates a forgone conclusion that the A's will be moving their Spring Training to Mesa's HoHoKam Park in 2015.

The Mesa facility is a significantly less pleasant overall experience vs. Phoenix Municipal Stadium from this fans perspective. It's beloved because well, Cubs fan logic.

Is more known about why Athletics management is so interested in this move?

Tempe, AZ

Dear Nate,

Thanks for your AN mailbag submission. First, I should say, that the most recent indications are that the A's are still working out a deal with the City of Mesa on the HoHoKam complex. Per Barry Bloom's article from 10/7, Wolff says: What's happening in Mesa, Ariz.? You guys are working on moving your Spring Training facility there from Phoenix as soon as the Cubs vacate HoHoKam Park for their new complex in 2014.

Wolff: We're looking at taking over remodeling the Cubs' old ballpark. We have a problem with continuing in Phoenix only because the cost to us and the city of re-doing Phoenix Municipal Stadium is beyond both parties' grasp. How far along are you on that?

Wolff: We should know by the end of the year if we've worked out something everybody is comfortable with. These are very nice people, in fact, in both cities. We love where we're at in Phoenix, but it's a pretty old facility. It does require lots of capital, and neither side has the ability to provide that. It's not available in this business climate today. How much work needs to be done on the Mesa complex?

Wolff: Actually, it would be somewhere in the $20 million bracket of which we'd share in some manner with Mesa. The practice facility would remain separate. That's the way we have it now. That's not a big issue. We'd like to have this all tied together with the opening of the new Cubs complex the year after next. I just looked at the construction of that facility and it's humongous. It's going to be really great. It's going to be terrific.

This potential move was first reported in January of this year by and later Phoenix Business Journal (here and here)

Analogous to the Coliseum, it is well-known that Phoenix Muni is a ballpark past its prime when compared to newer spring training facilities in the desert.

Wolff spells out his problems with Phoenix Muni in the answer to Bloom above: it simply appears that neither party is willing to foot the bill for the renovations it needs. It is not clear how much renovation is needed, however, a minimum number for this is likely the $4.5 million Arizona State University said it would spend to renovate Phoenix Muni if the A's do indeed vacate it and their partnership with the Cubs to play at their new facility falls through.

That said, as you mentioned as Yelp reviews mostly confirm, Phoenix Muni is a well-liked facility despite its no-frills appearance. While personally, I have never been to Spring Training (I know, right?!), I have heard from many fans that access to players is great and seats are close to the field.

Before you dismiss HoHoKam as a mediocre experience, I would remind you that the A's do plan on $20M of renovations, according to Wolff. So, the experience between now and future A's games will surely be different somehow. At the least, I am sure the players would appreciate newer digs.

The truth is, though, we don't know why the A's want to move from Phoenix Muni exactly. Is it solely money? Have players complained? Is it an attempt by Wolff to try to build at least one thing for the A's as his legacy? Or, if you want to go the conspiracy theory route, is it because Wolff owns the Hyatt Place hotel in Mesa and wants to drive business there?

Who knows. We do know, however, that the A's will be in Phoenix for Spring Training for at least 2 more years. So, I would encourage you to attend as many games as possible until then!