Mesa Historical Society weighs moving Spring Training museum, other options
Eric Mungenast, East Valley Tribune
A recent decision to remove the Spring Training Museum from November’s Mesa bond election has organizers considering the project’s next step, which could include relocating it to a different city.
During a study session at the July 8 Mesa City Council meeting, Mesa Historical Museum CEO Lisa Anderson requested the council remove the $17 million Spring Training Experience — formerly called the Cactus League Experience — item from the bond election package. The council agreed to remove it and approved the other bond items totaling $130 million.
“The whole thing came about fairly quickly, and I think that’s what led to the decision to hold back,” said Highground vice president of community affairs and project spokesperson Robert Johnson in a recent interview. “In the end, we decided it would be better to wait a little longer.”
At the meeting, Anderson said the Historical Museum wanted to explore new opportunities that arose in the week following discussion of the Spring Training Experience Play Ball! exhibit at a July 1 study session. One of the opportunities Johnson mentioned was moving the location of the Spring Training Experience out of Mesa and to a different Valley city if an agreement isn’t worked out. “Everyone has a say in how this goes; we’ll see,” he said. Johnson, who didn’t say which cities were in contention, emphasized Mesa “remains in the lead” because it’s the place where the idea for the museum was created.
The proposed location for the museum in Mesa is near the Chicago Cubs’ new stadium, also known as “Wrigleyville West” scheduled to open for the 2014 Spring Training season.
“If we can get the right arrangement, the right agreement, that’s where it will be,” he said. The Historical Museum currently operates the essence of the Spring Training Experiences under the auspices of its Play Ball! exhibit, which features approximately 4,000 pieces of baseball memorabilia at its site in Mesa located at 51 E. Main Street. Johson said the Play Ball! exhibit will remain at the downtown Mesa location until a permanent facility is completed.
Cactus League Fans Set Attendance Record in 2013
More than 1.7 million fans helped the Cactus League set a new attendance record with the 2013 spring training season that ended Saturday in Arizona.
This year’s Arizona spring training season featured 255 games over 37 days drawing 1.732 million fans to ten ballparks, an increase of about 20,000 fans over last year’s attendance of 1.712 million.
“Attendance continues to grow year after year as baseball fans around the country realize the convenience of being able to watch 15 Major League baseball teams training in a single metropolitan area,” said Mark Coronado, President of the Cactus League Association.
Not even a hail storm and a rainy weekend early in the schedule could dampen the numbers as fans packed ballparks around the area in the final three weeks of the season, pushing numbers ahead of last year’s totals.
“Many of our venues reported strong second half attendance and increasing revenues as loyal fans once again made the Cactus League their spring break destination,” Coronado said.
Two games made it into the Cactus League record books this season while another set an all-time ballpark record.
The Chicago White Sox- Los Angeles Dodgers contest at Camelback Ranch on Saturday night, March 23 set the Cactus League record for single game attendance, drawing 13,721 fans.
The game between the defending World Champion San Francisco Giants against the Chicago Cubs in Mesa on Monday, March 25 managed to place 12th in the all-time Cactus League single-game attendance rankings, drawing 13,374 fans.
Goodyear Ballpark, celebrating its 5th anniversary season this year, also hosted the Giants against the home team Cleveland Indians. The game on Saturday night, March 16 set a record for the most fans at a game in the new facility, with 11,023 through the gates.
Next season promises to be another strong year, according to Coronado, who predicted the opening of the new Chicago Cubs spring training ballpark and complex in the southeast corner of the Loop 101 and Loop 202 freeways in Mesa will again energize fans across the league.
“Fans get excited about new ballparks no matter who is playing there,” he said. “The League is still benefitting from the bounce we experienced in 2011 when the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies opened their new ballpark at Salt River Fields,” he said.
“I expect the Cubs will fill their new ballpark next year, as well as others around the area, when Chicago faithful flock to Arizona in hopes of catching a game at the new venue,” Coronado added.