Play Ball! Exhibit Will Be at Museum's Satellite Site

March 2, 2012
The Arizona Republic
Gary Nelson

Only nine days ago it was the center of the media universe, swarming with politicians and reporters after Mesa’s presidential debate.

Now the city-owned building at 51-55 E. Main St. is downtown Mesa’s newest tourist attraction.

The Mesa Historical Museum is opening its first stand-alone downtown satellite operation there on Saturday, featuring its popular Play Ball! baseball artifacts.

In addition, the site will host an exhibit celebrating Boeing Co.’s 30 years in Mesa and another featuring a collection of art from Buckhorn Baths, which in Mesa’s younger days was a haven for highway travelers and Cactus League ballplayers.

Play Ball! has been displayed downtown before, at the Arizona Museum for Youth. But this is the first iteration of the historical museum’s desire to establish its own, permanent presence in the burgeoning heart of Mesa.

“The new location for Play Ball! is much larger and is a strong addition to our downtown arts district,” Mayor Scott Smith said in a news release.

The exhibit will feature displays of the three Mesa stadiums used so far by the Chicago Cubs, and renderings of the team’s complex to be built beginning this year at Riverview. Memorabilia from the Oakland Athletics’ days in Mesa and from the New York/San Francisco Giants’ stays at Buckhorn Baths will be included.

There is a strong chance the A’s will return to Mesa beginning in 2015; the team is negotiating with the city to take over Hohokam Stadium after the Cubs leave.

The Historical Museum’s presence in the building is not intended to be permanent. The building is adjacent to the site of a future light-rail station and Mesa is not averse to its eventual demolition and redevelopment.

Elements of the Play Ball! exhibit also are on display at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Goodyear Ballpark and the Arizona Historical Society museum in Tempe.

Admission to the downtown exhibit will be $2.50 through March when the Cactus League is in town, and $5 thereafter. It will be open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays.

The museum’s main campus, 2345 N. Horne St., is open 10 a.m-4 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays.