Cactus League Benefits From Early Start, Good Weather With New Attendance Record
Two games remain to be played, but warmer weather and a “surge of spring-break fans the past two weeks have helped the Cactus League to set an attendance record of nearly 1.72 million fans,” according to Peter Corbett of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. A crowd of 11,635 for the final Cubs "home game at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa helped push the attendance past the mark of 1,712,042 set last year.” The Cactus League “started earlier than ever this year to accommodate the World Baseball Classic,” and fans initially were “slow to turn out the first two weeks of spring training.” The “cool, wet weather did not help and nine games were rained out March 8.” But Cactus League Association President Mark Coronado said after the WBC players returned to their regular teams midseason, the “turnstiles started to turn at a feverish rate.” The extended schedule “included 25 more games than last season, so attendance averages were down at most ballparks” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 3/29).
THE TIMES, THEY ARE A CHANGING: In Phoenix, Jim Walsh notes the Cubs' last game at Hohokam Stadium closed a "chapter in Cactus League history.” the stadium will “be reborn in 2015, when the Oakland Athletics move in as tenants of a renovated ballpark.” About 2.6 million fans “passed through Hohokam’s turnstiles since the stadium was rebuilt in 1997, setting Cactus League attendance records, in 2009 and 2005, including years when virtually every game was sold out.” The average attendance was “more than 10,000 per game.” Mesa Mayor Scott Smith said that any “sadness he had about the Cubs leaving Hohokam was outweighed by his enthusiasm about the new park and the A’s returning to Mesa, where they trained in the 1970s” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 3/29). In Chicago, Paul Sullivan writes the Cubs “aren't sad to leave Hohokam, which never lived up” to former GM Andy MacPhail's “hype of being a catalyst for a more consistent organization.” The Cubs finished “with an attendance of 145,381 in their final season at Hohokam Stadium.” That number is “a 57,742 decrease from the spring of 2009, when they drew 203,105 fans” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/29).