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Oakland Athletics show off new training facilities in Mesa

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MESA – The Oakland Athletics’ new spring training home at Hohokam Park features an upgraded clubhouse, a high-definition scoreboard, new seats and shaded party decks.

Developers gave team officials and Mesa leaders a tour of the stadium Wednesday as well as showing upgrades to minor league training facilities nearby in Fitch Park. In all, the project will cost $26.9 million with Mesa providing up to $17.5 million and the team putting up the rest.

Built in 1997, Hohokam Stadium was home to the Chicago Cubs until the team moved to brand new Cubs Park, also in Mesa. The A’s signed a 20-year agreement with the city to relocate from Phoenix Municipal Stadium and will play their first Cactus League game here next year.

Team President Michael Crowley said the Athletics have been working with the city for about a year now to make the stadium their own.

“It’s an unbelievable facility and one we can be proud of, both us and the city of Mesa,” Crowley said.

Other improvements to the facility include an expanded clubhouse weight room and new paint on the exterior of the stadium and the interior concourse.

“The renovations here at Hohokam were primarily geared around the fan amenities,” Crowley said. “We put a new face on it. It’s always been a great place to watch a ballgame, and I think the ads that we’ve done here will make it that much better.”

Crowley said the renovations to Fitch Park were more extensive because building up the minor league facilities sets the team up for the major league success. Used year-round for player development, the park has a new weight room, training rooms, classrooms, kitchens and meal areas as well as renovated fields, batting cages and pitching mounds.

“This is where kind of the dream starts for these young men that come into our organization,” he said. “With the renovations here, we’re providing an environment where they can develop and learn, where our coaches and instructors can teach and prepare them for that journey to the big leagues.”

The Athletics have made the playoffs for three straight seasons, and team owner Lew Wolff said the new facility will build on the team’s successes.

“It moves us to the new level of what facilities you need to really attract and retain ballplayers,” he said.

And Wolff said the team is looking to do a lot more from Mesa now.

“I think we will do our draft from here. We’ll do a lot of more centralized things than we could do before,” he said. “it’s a big move for us, a big positive move.”

This isn’t the first time the team’s spring home was in Mesa. The Athletics played at Rendezvous Park here from 1969 to 1978, during which the team won three consecutive World Series titles from 1972-1974.

“This is kind of a homecoming for us of sorts,” Crowley said. “We had a nice run there in ’72 and ’73 and ’74, so no pressure, but we expect a lot of the same.”

Mesa Mayor John Giles said memories of those years make him more excited for the city’s partnership with the A’s.

“I’m one of the kids who group up in Mesa, Arizona, in the ’70s,” Giles said. “One of the most vivid memories I had with my dad is sitting at Rendezvous Park about two or three rows back from home plate.”

Giles said he is excited for the financial benefits the A’s will bring to Mesa, but it’s the benefits to the community he is more excited about.

“Yes, economic development plays into it, and tourism and lots of other good reasons,” Giles said. “But at the base of all this hopefully we cannot forget that this is about baseball and about having quality experiences with our family and our friends in a great environment.”