It’s been more than 35 years since the Oakland A’s made a change in its spring training itinerary, leaving Mesa for Scottsdale, before settling in on the Phoenix-Tempe border.
But just like that – in a manner of speaking – after a brief comment from the mayor and a quick 7-0 consent agenda vote at Monday evening’s city council meeting, Mesa is again the spring home to two Major League Baseball teams.
“This is a good day and we are so grateful for the way the Oakland Athletics have worked with us – the fact that they’re invested in Mesa and coming back home,” Mayor Scott Smith said at Monday’s City Council meeting. “This is your home to me because you were here I was a young kid — and we are excited to have to have two teams in Mesa”
The city and the club, the reigning American League West Division Champions and winners of World Series titles in 1972, 1973, 1974 and 1989, agreed to at 20-year lease that was finalized with Monday’s vote.
The agreement requires the city to kick in the first $15 million in improvements to the A’s new home, made up of practice facilities at Fitch Park and the gameday setting at Hohokam Stadium.
The A’s and the city will equally split the next $5 million in renovations, leaving the city responsible for a limit of $17.5 million.
Any renovation costs exceeding $20 million would be paid by the A’s.
“This agreement is really a win-win situation for both the City of Mesa and for the Oakland A’s,” District 1 Councilman Dave Richins said. “We get to bring the A’s back to Mesa for Spring Training and keep Hohokam Stadium and Fitch Park at the forefront of Major League Baseball training facilities.”
Last week, the city also announced that the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority approved advancing $8.2 million to Mesa to offset some of its share of the stadium improvements.
The Athletics have a long history in Mesa. They spent spring training in Mesa, first at Rendezvous Park from 1969 to 1978 before becoming the first team to use Hohokam in 1977. After a three-year stint at Scottsdale Stadium, now home to the San Francisco Giants, the team moved to Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
Its contract with “Muni,” located just north of Priest Road and Washington Street where Tempe hits the eastern edge of Phoenix, expires in 2015.
The Chicago Cubs will leave Hohokam for their new stadium beginning in 2014, which gives the city and the Athletics a year in between to renovate the stadium in time for Oakland’s arrival.
Oakland A’s fans who travel to the Valley for Spring training had mixed feelings about the move Tuesday, as the A’s took on a team from Italy at Muni as a precursor to this year’s World Baseball Classic.
Bill and Roberta Beat, of Kelseyville, Calif., have been coming to Muni for 18 years, adding that they feel a sentimental attachment to the stadium, where they enjoy the atmosphere and Papago Park background scenery.
“As fans, it’s hard to leave the stadium here that we’ve been coming to for 18 years and I know the (ticket and vending) prices are going to cost more,” Roberta Beat said.
Added her husband: “I have mixed feelings, I guess. I like the closeness of field, I like the setting and everything at (Muni). … I’ve enjoyed this park. I really like the history of it, couldn’t find better people as far as the staff but I’m sure it will be good over there, too.”
The history behind Muni is a factor for Scott Bolin who has come from Santa Rosa, Calif. to watch Oakland’s spring training for the past five years.
“There’s a lot of history (in this) park … It’s kind of a shame they couldn’t put money in this park and upgrade it,” Bolin said.
After 2014, Phoenix Municipal Stadium will be without a Major League Baseball team for the first time, but a deal is in the works to bring the ASU Sun Devils there to play.
Although he hasn’t been to Hohokam for a game yet, Anthony Cefaloni of Santa Cruz, Calif., said he’s looking forward to the move to the new stadium – which he calls “moving up” for the A’s franchise.
“I don’t know what it’s like. I haven’t been down there yet. I’m still going to watch them play as long as they’re still in the area,” said Anthony Cefaloni of Santa Cruz, Calf.
“You always want to see your team progress,” he added.
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