Like the team’s namesake vine, the Hillsboro Hops are growing quickly. Two years ago, following a promotion to Minor League Baseball’s High-A level, the team’s season doubled in length. And within the next two years, the Hops hope to complete a stadium that will feature 33% more seating than Ron Tonkin Field, the team’s home since 2013. If mascot Barley T. Hop isn’t the hardest-working flower in Oregon already, he soon will be.
Barley’s increased workload began in 2020, when Major League Baseball revamped its minor league system. The Hops, an Arizona Diamondbacks affiliate, were a “short season” team prior to the change and played 76 games per season, half of them at home. The team was reclassified in 2020 as a High-A team, leapfrogging Low-A status. Since 2021, the Hops have played 132 games per season, half at home.
The length of the season isn’t all that’s changed. Like other Minor League Baseball teams, the Hops must meet new facility standards that emphasize player well-being. Significant differences include the size and quality of club houses and batting cages and the addition of weight rooms, female locker rooms, dining facilities for visiting and home teams and more, says Hops General Manager K.L. Wombacher.
The team considered updating Ron Tonkin Field, which is only a decade old. But various site constraints, including the attached football stadium, would have made the project too costly. So the Hops agreed with the city of Hillsboro, which owns Ron Tonkin Field, to build a new stadium in the same complex. When the Hops move to the new stadium in 2025, Ron Tonkin Field will receive more community use, says Wombacher.
The Hops will raise most of the funding needed to complete the $120 million project, with the city and state expected to provide the balance. It will be able to seat 6,000 people for baseball games and as many as 7,000 for concerts and other events. The Hops hope to maximize its use during the roughly 300 days per year when it isn’t hosting a team game. The team is working with a promoter to host as many as 20 concerts per year, says Wombacher. The Hops also will compete for major college events such as the Pac-12 Tournament.
The economic contribution of the new stadium will be significant. According to a recently released ECONorthwest study, construction of the facility will generate a $190 million economic impact, including almost 1,000 full-time jobs. And once the venue is open, it will generate an impact of about $64 million per year, including about 380 full-time jobs that pay about $20 million in wages.
The team itself employs 16 people full-time and as many as 200 seasonally, says Wombacher. When the new ballpark is complete, the Hops likely will employ between 40 and 50 people full-time and as many as 300 seasonally.
Large numbers aside, the core of the Hops’ business is affordable family entertainment, says Wombacher. Tickets for Hops games start at $8 and max out at $22. As a result, says Wombacher, “there are a ton of young families and young kids at games.”
- The Hillsboro Hops moved to Oregon in 2013 from Yakima, where the team had played since 1990 as the Yakima Bears.
- Before moving to Yakima, the team was located in Salem, Ore., and competed as the Salem Dodgers. As the name suggests, it was a Los Angeles Dodgers affiliate until 2001, when the affiliation with the Diamondbacks began.
- The Salem Dodgers’ 1989 roster included Mike Piazza, a National Baseball Hall of Fame catcher known for his hitting.
- In January, Hillsboro Hops manager Ronnie Gajownik became the first woman to lead a High-A baseball team.