At least two Major League Baseball teams are interested enough in Mesa’s Hohokam Stadium that they’ve hired engineers to study revamping the facility for their own use.
But if efforts to replace the Chicago Cubs with another baseball team falter, the city is looking at transforming the site to work for minor league soccer.
Either way, both city and Cactus League officials said they’ve found lots of interest in filling Hohokam.
At least seven baseball teams toured the stadium this year knowing the Cubs were negotiating for a new complex that will likely open in 2014.
But neither Mesa nor a new team could do much until the Cubs signed a deal with the city on a new $99 million complex and it was assured Hohokam would become available, said Robert Brinton, immediate past president of the Cactus League.
Mesa approved the deal for the new complex on Monday, which should pave the way for more serious efforts to begin, Brinton said.
Brinton is a longtime Cactus League official who has given several teams tours of the stadium and said they have liked the facility. But it will likely take some time before any team is publicly identified, he said.
“A lot of things are in motion right now, but having watched this for twenty-some years, it’s slow to the average person how long it takes to figure these things out and make a deal,” Brinton said.
City Manager Chris Brady said the two interested teams have been given floorplans so the organizations can begin deeper evaluations of the facility. If a team wants to go beyond that, it would likely sign an agreement to begin exclusive negotiations on a long-term lease, Brady said. That would likely span 90 to 120 days — and both sides would disclose it.
“We would love to get a team nailed down and make that public so they’re not looking somewhere else,” Brady said.
He expects that could happen as early as next year.
Mesa stands a good chance of luring a team from the Grapefruit League in Florida, Cactus League president Brad Curtis said. Hohokam would be a major upgrade for several teams that play in outdated Florida facilities, he said. And general managers from Florida have like their move to Arizona because training facilities are close to each other in the Valley, he said.
“They think that it’s a better place to train because all the teams are local,” he said. “You don’t spend two or three hours on a bus traveling to the other teams every day.”
Mesa expects it will need to make some renovations, especially to minor league training facilities at Fitch Park. Brady said city hasn’t estimated how much it would cost, in part because any renovations would depend on what a particular team is looking for.
Also, the city is starting to look at how Hohokam could be made into a soccer complex.
“We think it’s a possibility if we needed to, and it’s a sport that’s on the upswing in terms of popularity and baseball is kind of stagnant,” Brady said.
Even if Mesa secures a team well ahead of the 2014 spring training season, Hohokam may not get used right after the Cubs leave. Several teams have leases expiring at their current facilities in the next few years but some deals could extend slightly beyond 2014, Brady said. And because the Cubs train in Mesa year-round, the city can’t start renovating Hohokam until the Cubs are at the new complex.
“If we had to wait a year or two, that would be fine,” Brady said.
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