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Official Review by Jason Bartel, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Located in Mesa, Hohokam is best known as the long-time home of Chicago Cubs spring training, which started taking place in Mesa in 1952. The new stadium, which was built in 1997, seats 12,500 people, and is sold out often during Cactus League play. Mesa also draws the most people in the Arizona Fall League, where people go see the Mesa Solar Sox, who are affiliated with the Cubs, Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros. Hohokam was the home of the Arizona State Sun Devils baseball team in 2002 while Packard Stadium was undergoing renovations.
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For AFL games, the one entrance gate that is open is down the first base line, just beyond the ticket windows. The one concession stand that is open is right in front of you as you walk into the stadium. The food is very basic ballpark food, and it is the most expensive in the Arizona Fall League. It is worth your while to plan on eating lunch or dinner before the game, not during. You can bring in some of your own food to the stadium though, so you don't need to spend big money on a hot dog.
Even though Hohokam Stadium is new for its location, it is one of the older and more out of date stadiums as far as fan comfort goes in the Phoenix area. The seats are not angled toward home plate everywhere which makes watching from the outfield lines a little bit awkward. Also, the seats do not have cup holders, and the drinks sold do not have lids, which can be a very bad combo for some fans.
Almost all Cactus League stadiums are situated where the main seating area is in the shade for day games, and Hohokam is no exception. If you are in the actual seats and not the bench seating area closer to the outfield fence, you should be safe from the sun during day games.
There is no real scenic backdrop because the stadium is in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Even though there are more people at the games here than the other AFL stadiums, it didn't seem like there was as much buzz in the ballpark as others. The PA announcer was also the same lady who was the PA announcer for the Salt River Rafters, and she was not very exciting at either stadium.
There is absolutely nothing as far as entertainment and dining options in the immediate area of Hohokam Stadium. All along the other side of Center St. from the park is a giant cemetery. The closest thing is a Wendy's at the NE corner of Brown and Country Club.
There are a lot of fans, that's for sure. Most of them are there to see their future Cubs, but there wasn't really much cheering for anything that happened during the game. I happened to go to a game against the Scottsdale Scorpions, who are the Yankees affiliate, so there was some interesting banter outside the stadium before the game between Yankees and Cubs fans.
Hohokam Stadium is located on Center St., in between McKellips and Brown in Mesa. The easiest way to get there is to take the Loop 202 Red Mountain Fwy to McKellips, then take that east to Center, go south on Center and the stadium is on the left. The parking lot stretches between the stadium and Center, which happens to be the third base line. Everyone is forced to enter down the first base line, so the later you get to the game, the farther you have to walk, but it's not too bad. Parking is free, as it is for all AFL games.
There are two concourses, one below the stands, and one that goes around the stadium in the middle of the stands. The one below the stands is where the concessions stand is, as well as the one men's and one women's restrooms that are open. You cannot see the playing field at all from this concourse, but you can walk the other one and not miss a minute of the game. Both are designed for crowds of 12,000, so the about 1,000 that are at AFL games are not a problem as far as getting around is concerned.
The food prices are the most expensive in the league. Since the ticket prices are the same throughout the Arizona Fall League ($7), the food makes it the most expensive park to visit. The stadium architecture and look aren't really anything special, so if you're looking to visit Hohokam, I would recommend going to a Cubs Cactus League game and not a Fall League game. Also, the on-field product the Solar Sox had this year (2012) was the worst in the league. Being associated with a couple of struggling franchises (Cubs and Astros) does not help them putting on a good show.
There are programs available at all AFL games for $2, and a special scouts package available for an extra dollar. That will help if you are trying to learn your favorite MLB club's up and coming stars. They also have the names of the AFL Hall of Fame inductees from the team up on the outfield fence so you can get a sense of the talent that has come through that particular team during the AFL's 20 years.
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