Cubs History: Hohokam Park was the Cactus League’s crown jewel

(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /

Before Sloan Park opened in 2014, the Chicago Cubs spent their springs at Hohokam Park, a mere seven-minute drive away from the team’s current facility. The stadium opened in 1976 after the demolition of the team’s old site in Mesa, Rendezvous Park. With the North Siders moving in in 1979, it quickly became a top draw for Chicagoans sick of the cold.

While it notoriously lacked modern amenities at the time, Hohokam was among the most popular spring training facilities in the Cactus League during the 1980s and through the 1990s. It became the first stadium in spring training history to eclipse 100,000 attendees in a year in 1985 with fans excited to see the Ryne Sandberg and Rick Sutcliffe-led Cubs a bit earlier and a bit closer.

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In 1991, the field at Hohokam Park was renamed in honor of the “Father of Cactus League Baseball” Dwight W. Patterson who earned the title by helping bring Cubs baseball to Mesa in 1949. The team’s arrival in the desert solidified the Cactus League’s staying power and turned Hohokam into the crown jewel of Arizona spring baseball. Unfortunately, years of wear combined with wholly outdated facilities signaled the end for the iconic park.

Hohokam Park was itself demolished in 1996 but only to make way for an upgraded stadium and training facility by the same name. The update was massive with around 2,500 new seats added and modern luxuries to bring the park up to code. It was here that fans would make Cactus League history once again in the early 2000s and solidify the park’s place in Cubs lore.

Between 2004 and 2009, the Cubs set four attendance records, breaking both team and Cactus League bests in single-game attendance and yearly attendance. In 2009, they eclipsed 200,000 fans across all of spring training and managed to draw over 13,000 fans in seven games despite a max seating of around 12,000. It was clear that Chicago dominated the Mesa baseball scene and Hohokam was once again crowned as the spring baseball capital of the desert.

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Hohokam Park, now known as Hohokam Stadium, has since returned to hosting the Oakland A’s, but much of the success there translated over to Sloan Park. The new park has since set records in average, annual, and single-game attendance for spring training. Still, Hohokam was Chicago’s spring home for 34 years and holds a place in team history as their once beloved attraction in the desert.