While the history for the Cubs at HoHoKam is not as rich as the history at Wrigley Field, there is history there and in the Cactus League in general. In fact, this spring marks the Cubs’ 17th consecutive spring training season at HoHoKam Stadium and their 37th consecutive year in Mesa.
You will recall the residents of Mesa voted in November of 2010 to keep the Cubs in Mesa. They approved a $99 million project to keep the Cubs in Mesa just as a group of investors from Naples, Florida, tried to lure them away from Arizona. Ground was officially broken this past July and construction is on schedule to finish late this fall with the Cubs beginning spring training at the new facility next spring.
The Cubs, Mesa and the Cactus League have a long tradition. Prior to moving to Arizona, the Cubs trained in many other venues, with the longest stint prior to Arizona on Catalina Island in California, owned by the Wrigley family. The Cubs left Catalina Island for good in 1952. While poor weather was one reason for moving, to Mesa, another was that P.K. Wrigley, who then owned the team, had other business interests in Arizona. He was originally enticed to Mesa by Dwight Patterson, for whom HoHoKam Stadium – Dwight Patterson Field was named. Patterson, a local businessman and rancher, formed a group called the HoHoKams, named after the Native American tribe and made up of local businessmen, who collected $22,000 to lure the Cubs to Mesa in 1947. The team left Mesa for a while after ’47, returning to Catalina Island and Southern California, finally settling in Arizona in 1967. First playing in Scottsdale, they picked up a following of fans, many originally from the Chicago area, or those who traveled to Arizona during the winter, which continues today. Today’s fans also include Cubs fans that travel to Arizona just to see the Cubs in spring training.
The first ballpark the Cubs played at in Mesa was called Rendezvous Park, located where Fitch Park is today. Rendezvous Park was razed in 1979, and the first HoHoKam was built that year on its current site, coinciding with the Cubs’ return to Mesa. The second HoHoKam was built on the same site in 1996. The Cubs have played at HoHoKam and trained at Fitch Park down the street since 1979. The new facility will have its own practice fields, state-of-the-art workout areas and upgraded amenities for the fans. It is intended to be used year-round.
When the Cubs leave HoHoKam, the Oakland Athletics are expected to make some renovations and move into the stadium in 2015.