The Oakland Athletics are negotiating with Mesa to move their spring training operations from Phoenix to where the Chicago Cubs now practice, the A's announced Monday.
The team and the city have agreed to exclusive negotiations through May 15, giving the A's time to evaluate Mesa's Hohokam Stadium and Fitch Park during the 2012 spring training season.
The A's contract on Phoenix Municipal Stadium expires at the end of the 2014 spring training season. Mesa's facilities will likely become available in 2014, when the Cubs will move into a $99 million complex that Mesa will begin building next year.
Mesa and Cactus League officials had targeted teams from Florida's Grapefruit League to grow the number of teams in Arizona, Mesa City Manager Chris Brady said. At least three Florida teams had toured Mesa's facilities but the agreement only allows the city to work with the A's through mid-May.
Brady doesn't expect detailed negotiations despite the length of the agreement. The timeline was set mostly so the team can watch the facilities in action.
"What the A's really want is some opportunity to spend some time during spring training at the sites to see how the facilities work and function," Brady said.
That could set the stage for more detailed negotiations and a continuing exclusivity agreement. Or the sides could part ways and be free to work with other parties.
The A's have sought upgrades to Phoenix Muni, which was built in 1964 and is the oldest of the 15 Cactus League facilities. The Phoenix stadium seats 8,775 fans, the second smallest in the league. Hohokam seats 12,500.
The A's approached Mesa after improvement talks with Phoenix fizzled, Brady said. Mesa made sure to contact Phoenix officials to get an OK before proceeding, Brady said.
"I've talked to Phoenix, the mayor has talked to Phoenix. We don't want to represent this as something we stole from them," Brady said.
The A's issued a news release Monday but a team spokeswoman said the club would not have any further comment now.
Mesa has anticipated it will have to improve Hohokam and Fitch regardless of which team it ultimately signs, and that Fitch will require more extensive work. The city won't know what kind of money is involved until a team has a specific list of improvements its seeking, Brady said. Teams that toured the sites liked what they saw, he said.
"Even as old as they are they are very impressed at how well we kept them up," Brady said. "That made it a lot easier."
The A's had been in Mesa from 1969 to 1978, and in Scottsdale from 1979 to 1981, when the team moved to Phoenix.
The A's have a current tie to Mesa through team owner and real estate mogul Lewis Wolff. He operates a Hyatt Place hotel that opened at Mesa Riverview in 2009.
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