As we have said before, Arizona is our home and we are committed to working on issues to leave things better than we found it. We spend our time, our efforts, and our political capital to build a state that we can be proud of. Just as we invest in public policy efforts such as transportation and education, we are equally committed to promoting sports and tourism in our state.
We’re proud of our very own Robert Johnson and his passion for baseball and the Cactus League. He was instrumental in keeping the Cubs in Mesa and has been a champion for spring training. We’re pleased to call him part of the HighGround team.
From the Arizona Republic:
Robert Johnson is sure people will come to the Cactus League Hall of Fame once it’s built. Problem is, after six years, he still does doesn’t have a location for the museum.
Armed with fresh artists’ renderings of the proposed complex, Johnson hopes to nail down a site by the end of 2014.
Mesa remains a contender, said Johnson, who is a board member of the Mesa Historical Museum and project leader for the baseball museum.
But if a deal can’t be worked out with Mesa, Johnson has two other possibilities.
“We have three possible places, and Mesa is one of them,” he said. “The other two I’m not in a position to be able to talk about yet.”
All three sites are in proximity to existing baseball facilities, Johnson said, adding that there are various financing proposals for the $15 million to $20 million project.
“Where that shakes out is going to depend on who sees the vision first and wants to get it going,” he said.
As for the vision, Johnson used the term “grand” several times in talking about the concept developed by HKS Architects of Phoenix. HKS designed the Cactus League facilities at Camelback Ranch Glendale and Salt River Fields at Talking Stick just east of Scottsdale.
Baseball exhibits would be on the first and second floors. An upstairs party deck is planned. The museum also would include an open-air tee-ball court for younger kids.
The target location in Mesa is the Chicago Cubs’ spring-training complex that is nearing completion in the city’s northwestern corner. It has been difficult to nail down an exact site for the museum, however, because the Cubs and Mesa want to develop a commercial complex called Wrigleyville West within the complex.
Wrigleyville West would include shops, restaurants and likely hotels. The city has received two offers to build hotels there and is working to finalize the details.
Most of the developable Wrigleyville West land is along what Mesa calls the “paseo,” a promenade between the Cubs stadium and Riverview Park to the west.
Mayor Scott Smith said he and City Manager Chris Brady met recently with Johnson and plan to follow up.
Smith said Mesa would insist that the museum fit with other Wrigleyville West concepts.
“A lot of it is going to depend on what happens along the paseo as far as private development,” Smith said. “You really can’t decide that until you figure out exactly what the first stage of private development is going to be.”
The other big question for Mesa is whether it would participate in financing the museum.
The city talked last spring about including the museum in this month’s successful bond package, but Johnson and Mesa Historical Museum director Lisa Anderson pulled back when Mesa council members seemed lukewarm to the idea.
Smith said he isn’t sure when the next chance to include the museum in a bond election will be. He’s wary of “election fatigue” after a nearly nonstop, decadelong run of Mesa votes involving taxes, bonds and economic-development projects.
The questions surrounding Mesa’s role in the project have led Johnson to look elsewhere.
Exhibits for the museum could come from the Mesa Historical Museum’s Play Ball Cactus League collection. Much of that collection is on display in the historical museum’s downtown Mesa annex at 51 E. Main St.
Even without a building, the Cactus League Hall of Fame plans to begin honoring those who turned the Cactus League into a tourist attraction.
The first class of inductees will be announced during the annual Cactus League lunch in February. Johnson said it will focus on the civic leaders who brought spring baseball to Arizona more than 60 years ago.
Future classes of inductees will be chosen by fans and could include players and other important Cactus League figures. The Hall of Fame will exist online until there is a physical place to honor its members.