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Official Review by Jason Bartel, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The greater Phoenix area is no stranger to college baseball. Whether it’s perennial power Arizona State, the up-and-coming Grand Canyon Antelopes, or the many early season tournaments that various cactus league parks host, there’s always great college baseball to be found in the desert.
The conference tournament season is no exception, as the WAC plays its conference tournament in Mesa, AZ. Due to renovations at Hohokam Stadium in 2014, the WAC temporarily moved to Sloan Park, the home of the Chicago Cubs. But the conference returned to Hohokam in 2015 to a much-improved stadium, and one that serves well as the home of a smaller conference’s baseball tourney.
Hohokam is now the spring training home of the Oakland Athletics after the team began cactus league operations there in 2015. The A’s logo is everywhere, which makes the WAC feel a little bit like invaders, but it’s still a nice setting for a little college baseball in late May.
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There is one concession stand open at Hohokam Park during the WAC Tournament right where you enter the stadium. It offers the very basics in ballpark concessions.
The one stand offers hot dogs, peanuts and candy for $4 and nachos for $5. You can also get some chips with your hot dog if they still have some left.
There are Pepsi product 12 oz. cans available for $3, as well as bottled water. You can also get a 16 oz. beer for $7 or 24 oz. for $10.
I'd go with the hot dog as far as food is concerned. They are very big and tasty for the $4 that you'll spend.
Hohokam Stadium has come a long way with the renovations done by the Oakland Athletics, but with just one WAC team in the state of Arizona, it's still a mostly empty stadium for the weekend, no matter what teams are playing. Even though A's logos are everywhere, the WAC does a decent job of setting the mood for college baseball with various signage inside the stadium, as well as outside.
The new seating area is filled with regular chairs that are pretty comfortable for plastic seats, and all have cup holders. A lot of the seats are now in the shade with a new overhang that was added, which is really nice for those early games each day throughout the tournament. You can sit anywhere you want in the infield, but the seating area down the right field line is blocked off by fences. The outfield lawn is blocked off as well, but there is an area with picnic tables set up down the left field line. Both bullpens are located beyond the right field wall, and on the right field fence are signs for each team in the tournament.
The new scoreboard in left field is great and is utilized by the WAC to show player names and headshots when they are batting. It's huge, and is very clear, with white numbers to counteract the sun. One unique thing about the WAC tournament is that the PA announcer not only announced each batter, but announced each guy involved in a putout during the game. No walkup music for anyone was sort of strange, but there was music in between innings.
There is a WAC trivia contest at the end of each fifth inning, and if you were the first one to the marketing table with the right answer, you'd win a WAC prize pack. The other "giveaway" is that if you get a foul ball, you can return it to the merchandise table for WAC swag.
Since you can sit anywhere, and there's not a lot of competition for seats, there's really no wrong answer here. You can find a shady spot up higher, or get a tan and sit right next to the field. At night I like sitting closer, just because you can hear just about everything said in both dugouts and by the umpires.
If you need an idea of the immediate area around Hohokam, just know that there is a cemetery literally right across the street from the parking lot. It's a very residential area, so you'll have to drive a little bit to get to the entertainment.
There are a few options along Main Street, which is several blocks south of the stadium. Desert Eagle Brewing Company is one of the better places on Main Street. If you're driving though, I recommend heading west a few miles to Mesa Riverview, where there are a ton of dining options including Famous Dave's BBQ and Cactus Moon.
You can tailgate in the parking lot. I noticed the Cal State Bakersfield fans taking advantage of that the most.
Again, Mesa Riverview is where you want to be, as there's a movie theater, a park, and a lot of shopping options, most notably Bass Pro Shops. A little further west of Mesa Riverview is the Arizona State campus, which has just about everything that you could think of as far as entertainment.
Near the stadium itself, there's the i.d.e.a museum and the Arizona Museum of Natural History. If you're lucky, you might be able to catch a concert at Mesa Amphitheater, which is directly south of the stadium on Center.
Regarding hotels, this is another case of you should stay closer to Mesa Riverview or ASU. All of the major hotel chains can be found along that area of the Loop 202 Red Mountain. There's not really a place to stay that's super convenient to Hohokam.
While there may not be a ton of fans there, the fans that do show up are quite passionate and vocal.
I would say typical attendance was somewhere between 100 and 200 people for games throughout the tournament. It's not a lot, but what do you expect when you have a bunch of out-of-state smaller schools playing?
You wouldn't think that there were so few people at these games though with all the noise. Special shoutout to the Northern Colorado fans, who were impressive not only at the WAC Tournament, but also during a game at Grand Canyon during the regular season. Also a shoutout to the Cal State Bakersfield fans, who not only tailgated and got under the skins of the Seattle U fans, but to the guy who yells "Roll 'em a chair" every time a CSUB pitcher gets to two strikes against a batter.
Since the event is so sparsely attended, getting to the park, leaving the park, and moving around the park is very easy. There is almost no traffic along Center St., so you won't run into any problems once you get off the Loop 202 Red Mountain at any of the exits between Alma School and Country Club.
Buses don't make it to the stadium itself, but you can use the Valley Metro interactive map to figure out the best way to get there. Sky Harbor is your best bet if you're flying into Phoenix, but sometimes you can find cheaper flights out of Phoenix-Mesa Gateway. The Mesa airport is not as convenient as Sky Harbor though.
The parking lot along Center is open, and is free, and is certainly big enough for the crowds at the WAC Tournament. Just park under a tree to get some shade if you can.
The only gate open is right next to the parking lot along the third baseline. There's no real security check or lines or anything like that.
Once in the stadium, you only can go one direction, and that's up the third baseline, because the rest of the concourse is blocked off. The third base side is also where the only restrooms are located. Once out in the seating area, you can get out to about where first base is, but no further down the line.
The tournament itself is fairly cheap, and the more games you go to, the better the value becomes.
Single day passes are $15, and all-session passes are around $40. With the tournament spanning four and possibly five days, the all-session is the best value if you plan on attending a lot of baseball. Food is average priced, with hot dogs costing $4 and sodas costing $3. And then parking is free, and you could wind up with some free WAC gear by either getting a foul ball or winning the trivia contest.
The only way I can think of to save money is by bringing your own food, which is allowed. Other than that, there's no real way to save any money on tickets or concessions.
There is nothing extra special to note. It's a very basic baseball experience, which is perfectly fine of course.
I liked the WAC Tournament, and the 2015 version had a great game on Saturday night between Cal State Bakersfield and Seattle, which ended in walk-off fashion.
It's not for everyone, but it's a good time for baseball fans, and once Grand Canyon is eligible for postseason play, maybe there will be a lot more fans showing up. But it's a pretty good setting to stick a mid-major tournament like this.
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150 West Main Street
Mesa, AZ 85201
263 North Center Street
Mesa, AZ 85201
320 N. 44th St.
Phoenix, AZ 85008