The name HoHoKam ("those who vanished") can be traced back to a local Native American tribe that was formerly in the Mesa area, but really HoHoKam Park is named after a local charitable organization that was key in luring the Cubs to Mesa's Rendezvous Park way back in 1952. (The Cubs have not been training Mesa continuously since 1952; the team moved spring training to Long Beach in 1966 and Scottsdale in 1967 before moving back to Mesa in 1979.) HoHoKam Park is probably the hottest ticket in the Cactus League, as those refugees from the cold Chicago winters are only too eager to flee to sunny Arizona. And with a total capacity of 12,623 (including 8,000 fixed seats, 2,000 bleacher seats, and lawn capacity of over 2,500), HoHoKam Park is the second-largest stadium in the Cactus League -- allowing the Cubbies to set spring-training attendance records.
(Note that both the Cubs and the city of Mesa use the terms HoHoKam Park and HoHoKam Stadium interchangeably. We'll use HoHoKam Park, as that's what it says on the sign at the ballpark.)
Indeed, HoHoKam Park is really a Class AAA park masquerading as a spring-training facility. It certainly has the largest scoreboard in the Cactus League: a 12'x16' instant replay video screen on a 32-foot high left-field scoreboard. The contours of the outfield wall are designed with the same dimensions of those at Wrigley Field -- but, of course, there's no ivy or brickwork. It was designed by HOK Sport, designer of Oriole Park at Camden Yards (Baltimore), Jacobs Field (Cleveland), and Coors Field (Denver), so you know that there are retro touches throughout: in the case of HoHoKam, there are traditional steel trusses and steel canopy above the upper deck.
During the rest of the year HoHoKam Park is also the home of the Arizona Fall League Mesa Solar Sox and the Mesa Cubs in the Arizona Rookie League. During the 2002 college season HoHoKam was also home of the Arizona Sun Devils while renovation work was done to Packard Stadium.
Spring Training History
The Chicago Cubs have trained in a variety of locations: Champaign, Illinois (1901-02, 1906);
Los Angeles (1903-04, 1948-1949), Santa Monica (1905); New Orleans (1907, 1911-1912); Vicksburg, Miss. (1908); Hot Springs, Ark. (1909-1910); Tampa (1913-1916); Pasadena, Cal. (1917-1921); Catalina Island, Cal. (1922-1942, 1946-1947, 1950-1951); French Lick, Ind. (1943-1945); Mesa (1952-1965, 1979-present); Long Beach, Cal. (1966); and Scottsdale (1967-1978).
Why Avalon on Catalina Island? (Catalina Island is located 20 miles outside of Los Angeles.) Because Cubs owner William Wrigley Jr. bought a majority interest in the island in 1919. Wrigley then constructed a ballpark on the island to house the Cubs in spring training: it was built to the same dimensions as Wrigley Field. (The ballpark is long gone, but a clubhouse built by Wrigley to house the Cubs exists as the Catalina County Club.) By 1951 the team had grown disenchanted with Catalina Island, however, and spring training was shifted to Mesa, Arizona, after the Cubs held a profitable series of games against the New York Yankees in Arizona. At the time Mesa was not seen as an attractive area for spring training, and in fact the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League failed to draw at all when the team held spring training at Mesa in 1952.
The move to Mesa was also promoted by Dwight Patterson, a Mesa rancher and builder who worked to bring spring-training games to the area. The Cubs were hesitant to move to Mesa with the New York Giants training only 20 miles away in Phoenix, so Patterson and a group of local businessmen formed the HoHoKams, who put up a $22,000 guarantee if the Cubs moved to Mesa's Rendezvous Park. (Fittingly, Patterson was the first "Chief Big Ho.") Today the HoHoKams exist as a charity. Rendezvous Park seated 3,000 when the Cubs moved there in 1952 but was expanded soon afterwards.
After the Cubs moved spring training to southern California in 1966, Mesa did not host any spring training until 1969, when the Oakland Athletics moved their training from Scottsdale. Charlie O. Finley was dissatisfied with the training facilities in Scottsdale; hence the move to Rendezvous Park. The A's were not a big draw in Mesa, however, and in 1976 Rendezvous Park was torn down.
This is actually the second HoHoKam Park; the first was built in 1976 at Fitch Park as the spring-training home of the Athletics, who quickly bailed on Mesa and made way for the Cubs to return in 1979. The new complex provides 25,000 square feet of team facilities, including a major league clubhouse, four practice fields, one practice infield, enclosed batting tunnels, batting cages, a maintenance facility, and administrative offices for the Cubs.