2010/2011 (MESA, Ariz.) - Mesa has fast become the third largest metropolitan city in the state of Arizona. Now boasting 467,811 residents, Mesa's population is greater than such well-known cities as Minneapolis, Cleveland and Miami. Located just minutes east of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Mesa has nearly 320 days of sunshine each year. Mesa has much to offer visitors year-round and is a popular worldwide travel destination.

Mesa is a city emerging as a leader; evolving higher living standards and energizing the economy. It is proud to boast a young and highly educated workforce. The city is also home to the largest school district in the state and its school system has 10,000 employees. Mesa has sixteen schools of higher learning including Arizona State University's Polytech Campus, Arizona School of Health Sciences (medical center) and Arizona School of Health Sciences Dental School. Major industries include Banner Health System, Boeing, Talley Defense Systems, TRW Safety Systems, and General Motors Desert Proving Grounds.

The first known settlement in the Mesa area was about 2,000 years ago. An Indian civilization now called the Hohokam (Pima language: those who are gone), built an empire that lasted 1,500 years. The agriculturally-oriented Hohokam engineered hundreds of miles of irrigation canals, cultivating thousands of acres of land. Although an advanced civilization, the Hohokam vanished because of drought or flooding, or a combination of both, between 1400 and 1500 A.D.

New World explorers, missionaries and Indian tribes traveled through Central Arizona during the next centuries. Long-term residents did not arrive until 1877 as Mormon pioneers settled just below the mesa next to the Salt River. In 1878, a second group of pioneers arrived settling upon the mesa. The pioneers excavated the ancient Hohokam canals, again bringing irrigation and ensuring the rebirth of a community.

When these early settlers made camp along the river, they referred to the land above the bluff as the "mesa." This is a Spanish word meaning table. Who suggested the word Mesa as the name of the new town site is not known for sure. A report in the November 21, 1883 Phoenix Herald states Captain William A. Hancock first mentioned it to the pioneers. Residents then began referring to their community as Mesa or Mesa City.

The original Mesa town site was one mile square. The streets were wide to enable the horse and buggies to turn around, and the lots large to encourage residents to plant gardens. The dirt streets were lined with irrigation ditches that carried water to gardens, pastures and yards. Colonists used abandoned Hohokam canals for part of their irrigation project.

In 1883, the town of Mesa City was incorporated after residents asked the county for permission to establish a local government. At the first election, ten city officials were elected. For many years Mesa's government and population were small. In 1941, the population was 7,000 and the town of Mesa owned just one building.

After incorporation and in less than 20 years, three important services came to Mesa. The railroad was established in 1895, Mesa's first electricity was acquired in 1898, and telephone service arrived in 1902.

In 1912, one of Mesa's earliest cotton gins was purchased and soon thousands of acres of land were planted with cotton.

Cotton and citrus were two of Mesa's most important crops, and within a few years Mesa farmers raised grain, melons, alfalfa, vegetables, and other fruits. Livestock, dairy and poultry farming were also businesses of note.

In 1927, Salt River Valley Mormons dedicated the Arizona Temple, whose design was inspired by Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem. With its completion, local Mormons no longer had to travel to Utah to be married.

Because of the war in Europe, two military airports were built near Mesa in 1941. Williams Field was constructed to train American pilots, and British pilots trained at Falcon Field. Falcon Field was closed at the conclusion of the war and turned over to the city of Mesa, which converted it to a municipal airport. Williams Field operated as an Air Force training base until 1993 and was acquired by the city in 1994 and reopened as Williams Gateway Airport.

In 1952, Mesa became the Spring Training home of the Chicago Cubs, and the course of sports history for the city was changed forever. Before that, baseball was played in the area, but real expansion of baseball at all levels began with the Cubs' arrival more than a half-century ago. Today, Mesa and the Cubs, along with thirteen other Major League teams, provide fans with the ultimate in Cactus League Spring Training action during March of each year.

Mesa today is unique among cities in the Phoenix metroplex as it offers guests great outdoor activities such as hiking and boating. Visitors to this recreation area can also enjoy horseback riding, a paddle wheel boat ride, wilderness Jeep tours, or tee off at one of the more than 40 golf courses within a half-hour drive. The mysterious Superstition Mountains, home to the famous Lost Dutchman Gold Mine, located 20 minutes from downtown have numerous hiking trails and exciting places to explore. Four lakes are also situated in the Superstitions and each has excellent boating and fishing.

While Mesa is located next to the Tonto National Forest and offers the feel of a small community, the city is thriving and dynamic. There are 60 hotels, resorts and motels varying in amenities from first-class, full-service properties to cozy inns.

Media Contact:
Michelle Streeter, Director of Public Relations
Mesa Convention & Visitors Bureau
Direct: 480-682-3638 Toll-free: 800-283-6372 x345
E-mail: Michelle@VisitMesa.com

About the Mesa Convention & Visitors Bureau:
The Mesa Convention & Visitors Bureau is responsible for marketing Mesa, Arizona as a leading vacation, small meeting and sports travel destination to regional and national target audiences, including travel agents and group tour operators, meeting planners, leisure visitors and media.

Editor's Note: Readers can request a complimentary 2011 Official Mesa Arizona Visitors Guide at http://www.visitmesa.com/ or by calling 800-283-6372.

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