Attracting Younger Fans Critical to Cactus League’s Future

    By Chris Calcaterra, Vice President – Marketing and Promotions, Cactus League Association

    A recent survey of Cactus League fans shows they are getting older, not just by a little, but by a lot. Today, that’s ok because truly the older fan spends more money than the younger fan. But it’s not good news for the future of spring training baseball in Arizona. Without question it is a challenge for the host cities and the Major League Baseball teams that train here.

    The survey shows the average age of the Cactus League fan who traveled here from out of state in 2012 was 52.5 years old. That’s “older” than the average local fan and up a couple of years on average since the last survey was done in 2007.

    Data compiled for the Cactus League Association by FMR Associates in Tucson also shows that 77 percent of the visiting baseball fans did not bring kids last year!

    It makes sense to start growing new fans now. If you believe the data it appears we have a big mountain to climb. Nevertheless, Cactus League ballparks around the Valley are doing more to encourage adults to bring their kids to the games.

    Most Major and Minor League teams offer kids clubs to families in their home cities, but Peoria is the first to do it here in the Cactus League. Now in its second year, members get a special Club backpack, personalized membership card, discounts at both the Team Shop and concession stands and even a private meet-and-greet with select San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners players.

    Many ballparks, including Goodyear, Surprise and Peoria have kids’ zone areas or kid-size baseball fields where young fans can have some spring training fun too.

    Of course, kids come to the games, but they are most often boys and girls from around the Valley. We can boost our local numbers by working more with Little Leagues and youth baseball travel teams, to build excitement and educate younger fans.

    But if the Cactus League is to continue to grow attendance each season, we’ve got to get more kids on planes with their parents and grandparents when they come here from out of state.

    So far finding the answer to that question seems almost as tough as getting a solid hit off an accomplished knuckle ball pitcher.


    Cactus League Kick-Off Features Brett, Maddux Feb. 19, 2013

    The annual Cactus League kick-off event this month features a Hall of Fame line-up of guest speakers.

    Kansas City Royals Hall of Fame third baseman George Brett and Texas Rangers special advisor and future Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux are both scheduled to address an expected group of 400 at a luncheon planned for Tuesday, Feb. 19 at Surprise Ballpark.

    Tickets cost $40 each and are still available for the event. They can be purchased by calling 623-222-2239 or sending email to


    New Cactus League Website Makes Spring Training Trip Planning Easy

    The Cactus League Association has launched a new website for spring training fans making plans to see their favorite Major League Baseball teams get ready for the 2013 season.

    The site,, boasts a new graphic look and improved navigation. A trip planner, Cactus League game schedule, and map of all ten Valley ballparks are easily found on the home page. Fans also can buy tickets to their favorite team’s games by clicking on the team’s logo at the top of the page.

    “Whether a fan wants to see one game or ten, this site makes planning a day trip or a week-long vacation to the Cactus League quick and easy,” said Nathan Torres, Cactus League Vice-President of Communications.


    ASU baseball seeking permission to move to Phoenix Municipal Stadium

    By Jeff Metcalfe – The Arizona Republic

    Arizona State is seeking permission from the Arizona Board of Regents to move its baseball team to Phoenix Municipal Stadium.

    A proposed 25-year lease will be discussed by the Regents’ business and finance committee Feb.6, then forwarded to the board Feb.7.

    If approved, ASU baseball is expected to begin playing at Phoenix Muni in the 2015 season after the Oakland Athletics move from there to Hohokam Stadium in Mesa. The Sun Devils would play two final seasons — 2013 and ’14 — at Packard Stadium, their home since 1974.

    Oakland’s lease for spring training at Phoenix Muni expires at the end of 2014, and the A’s have reached a memorandum of understanding with the city of Mesa on a 20-year lease with possible extensions to play at Hohokam Stadium after the Chicago Cubs move to their new Riverview stadium.

    ASU ended negotiations in November with the Cubs to share their new stadium starting in 2014. The Regents approved a proposed agreements with the Cubs in June, but those parties, even with assistance in negotiations from the Mesa officials, could not close a deal.

    “Progress has been made with the city of Phoenix,” ASU Senior Associate Athletic director Rocky Harris said. “We’re confident that we’ll be able to move forward.”

    In the proposed lease for Phoenix Muni, ASU will receive all revenue from tickets, net concessions and parking. Rent will kick in after ASU revenue reaches $1.1 million and, even with a 2.5 percent annual escalator, cannot exceed $300,000.

    ASU will be responsible for maintenance and operating expenses and receive 50 percent of revenue generated from other existing events that utilize Phoenix Muni.

    Current Phoenix Muni was built in 1964 — replacing the original stadium built in 1947 — and seats 8,000. It is located less than 3 miles from Packard Stadium, with a capacity of 4,000. The A’s have played at Phoenix Muni since 1982, and the stadium was home to the minor-league Phoenix Firebirds until 1992.

    There was a $6.4 million renovation of Phoenix Muni after 2003 spring training. Tentative ASU plans for the stadium including a new video board and signage/branding that will bring the school’s legacy to its new home.

    ASU has a history at Phoenix Muni, including district tournaments played there in 1965 and ’67, when the Sun Devils won and went on to capture the first two of their five College World Series titles. ASU also played some regular-season games at Phoenix Muni before Packard Stadium was built, including pitcher Gary Gentry’s famous 15-inning, complete-game Western Athletic Conference playoff win over Arizona in 1967.

    ASU is choosing to move from Packard Stadium rather than renovate or rebuild it. The stadium is part of the ASU athletic facilities district — created to fund athletic capital projects, including a new Sun Devil Stadium — and that land on the corner of Rural Road and Rio Salado Parkway is valuable as a northeast entrance to the university.


    Workers Muscle Raw Materials into Spring Training Jewel

    The new crown jewel of spring training baseball facilities in Arizona is rising from a former City of Mesa golf course with plans to host professional baseball’s storied Chicago Cubs franchise starting next spring.

    The Chicago Cubs training facility, when finished, will feature a 15,000 seat ballpark reminiscent of historic Wrigley Field; a state-of-the-art team clubhouse facility; a cluster of top-notch baseball practice fields; pristine youth soccer fields and a sparkling public lake that will boast an exciting new design.

    Passers-by the project site at the corner of 8th Street and Dobson Road in Mesa are treated to a daily show of construction progress, as hundreds of workers muscle steel, concrete and other building materials into the shape of a facility that will be the best in Arizona’s Cactus League.

    Mesa voters get the credit for the project, approving $84 million in bonds at the ballot box in November, 2010. They also gave the nod to $15 million in related infrastructure improvements to upgrade the park, streets, and water lines among other things to make the project work.

    Of course, it wasn’t that long ago that the site was the home to Riverview Golf Course, famous for its large trees and its convenient location in the southeast corner of the region’s Loop 101/Loop 202 freeway interchange.

    It was the location and the room to grow the Chicago Cubs brand that attracted the City and team ownership to the site.

    And thanks to the efforts of architect Populous and construction manager Hunt Construction Group, it is easy to see how the project will keep the area busy for decades to come.

    With each new day of hammering, drilling and smoothing of concrete, the vision of the Cubs future training home is coming closer to life.

    The ballpark’s field sunk into the dirt is outlined by concrete walls that will set the stage for exciting home runs. The grass berm, a signature feature of Arizona’s spring training ballparks, starts high in right field and slopes down slightly as it makes its way to the left field corner. The dugouts are outlined and so are the bullpens.

    The wall behind home plate will feature a brick inlay reminding fans of the team’s historic ballpark in the Windy City. The wall is there. The bricks are on their way.

    The roof structure also is designed to pay compliment to the team’s home field heritage as will the expansive left field building planned to host party decks above a clubhouse and other facilities. Can you say Wrigleyville Rooftops? The inspiration is obvious.

    Every piece of the project is now under construction. Workers, a large number of which are Mesa residents, are building six days a week with an eye toward completing the project this fall.

    Without a doubt, Chicago Cubs players, spring training fans and Mesa residents are in for a treat when the facilities open for baseball, soccer, fishing and fun in the sun early next year!


    Arizona Republic: Investment is paying off

    The local family business is doing just fine.

    That’s the conclusion to be drawn from a pair of studies of the health of the Cactus League facilities in Maricopa County.

    The studies found spring training is doing very well at attracting out-of-state fans who come to the Valley primarily to attend spring-training games, as well as fans for events at the ballparks outside of Major League Baseball spring training.

    That is especially good news considering the substantial investment Arizona has put into spring-training operations here.
    Since passage in 2003 of Proposition 302, which enacted numerous tourist-directed taxes as well as user fees for sporting events, the league has thrived.

    It has expanded to 15 teams. It has added four new stadiums, three of which were funded largely with money from Prop. 302.
    That good health has spawned Cactus League growth by other means, too.

    The league’s success prompted the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community to invest a not-so-small fortune in one of the most beautiful spring-training parks ever built, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, the springtime home of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies.

    And let us not forget the spring-training phenomenon known as the Chicago Cubs. Yes, it is inexplicable to those of us not from Chicago. But the planned “Wrigleyville” development in Mesa clearly would not be viable without a healthy Cactus League around which to build.

    The main study, one commissioned every four or five years by the Cactus League, finds the growth in the number of teams has had a commensurate effect on attendance, which is up nearly 40 percent from 2007, when the last survey was undertaken. Fifty-six percent of the fans came from another state or country.

    The survey’s real money stat, however, is also strong: Among out-of-state fans interviewed last spring, 67 percent said their primary reason for coming to the Valley was to attend spring-training games. An additional 20 percent said it was a major incentive for visiting Arizona.

    Meaning? Well, it means that all that investment in baseball’s rites of spring are paying off.

    Some visitors may have come anyway for the sunshine and the golf. But the majority indicated they would not have visited the Valley if not for spring training, which means more than half of the $230 million those tourists spent in the Valley would have been spent elsewhere if not for a thriving Cactus League.

    More to the point, it means Prop. 302’s design model is working efficiently.

    The out-of-state fans who rent cars, stay in hotels and pay ticket surcharges are in very large part the ones supporting the cost of stadium construction and remodeling in the Valley.

    In all, the two studies find an annual, yearlong economic impact attributable to the Cactus League of $632 million.
    Cactus League President Mark Coronado calls his operation “a driving economic engine.” With those kind of numbers, it is hard to disagree.


    Study: Cactus League economic benefits up, continue year-round

    By Peter Corbett – The Arizona Republic

    Cactus League baseball and year-round use of its ballparks and training facilities add an estimated $632 million to Arizona economy, according to a study released Monday by the Cactus League Baseball Association.

    The study found that 56 percent of the 1.7 million fans attending games this past spring were out-of-state visitors and the median stay in metro Phoenix was 5.3 nights.

    Spring training accounted for $422 million in economic impact in 2012, up 36 percent from the previous study in 2007. Both were done by FMR Associates of Tucson.

    A related study by Elliott D. Pollack & Co., the first of its kind, estimated that use of the 10 Cactus League ballparks and 15 baseball training complexes boosted the local economy by $210 million. That included community events and festivals.
    “Spring training pumps our economic tires each spring,” said Mark Coronado, association president. “But these studies confirm that the economic benefits continue all year long.”

    The Cactus League Baseball Association has been tracking attendance and the economic benefits of spring training with four previous studies, roughly every five years, since 1993. It’s an effort to quantify the return on hundreds of millions of dollars in public investment in the baseball facilities and to demonstrate the league’s impact on tourism and the economy.

    The Goldwater Institute, which has been outspoken about public investment in Glendale’s sports facilities, declined to comment on taxpayer investment in spring training facilities and the economic study.

    The Cactus League study showed that 67 percent of the visitors said that spring training was a primary reason for their visit to Arizona.

    Spending by those visitors included car rentals, hotels, restaurants, retail, entertainment and golf.

    Pam Gilbert, Fairmont Scottsdale Princess director of sales and marketing, said the Scottsdale resort has been seeing more spring training visitors from San Francisco and Colorado returning for vacations in the summer and fall.

    Mark Stanton, Arizona Office ot Tourism deputy director, said that Scottsdale is likely to see a boost in visitors from San Francisco this coming spring because the Giants won the World Series in October.

    The association’s initial study of year-round use of the stadiums and practice complexes has quantified the broader impact of hosting 15 teams in metro Phoenix.

    Those events include concerts, races, a food-truck culinary festival, youth sports and an upcoming Jan. 2 pep rally at Salt River Fields, on the Salt River Reservation just east of Scottsdale, for the University of Oregon prior to the Fiesta Bowl.

    Coronado, who also is the Surprise parks and recreation director, said community events account for 65 percent of the use of Surprise’s ballpark and training facilities and 35 percent is for Major League Baseball.

    The league’s 15 teams each have their own training complexes and share 10 ballparks in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Mesa, Tempe, Peoria, Goodyear Surprise and on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.

    Another ballpark is under construction in Mesa for the Chicago Cubs and should open for the 2014 season.

    The 2007 study of Cactus League’s economic impact estimated the league added $310 million to the state’s economy. At the time, the league had 12 teams and the Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies and Chicago White Sox trained in Tucson.

    The league has since added the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds, and all 15 teams train in metro Phoenix.

    The Cactus League attracted a record attendance this past spring of 1.7 million fans, up 7.3 percent from 2011. That was an average of 7,444 fans for 230 games.

    Attendance in 2007 was 1.2 million fans and an average of 6,921 per game.

    The studies were funded by the Arizona Commerce Authority, Arizona Office of Tourism, Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority and the host cities for spring training.

    The 2013 Cactus League season is Feb. 22 through March 30.


    Cactus League Attendance Rises for Almost Every Team, Boosting Valley Tourism

    By Peter Corbett – Arizona Republic

    Cactus League baseball hit a new attendance record of 1.68 million fans this spring with one game to play today at Salt River Fields.

    Average attendance was up for 14 of the 15 teams in the Valley — it dipped 1.23 percent for the Colorado Rockies — and overall attendance increased 5.6 percent over last year’s record season, according to preliminary figures from the Cactus League Association.

    The Arizona Diamondbacks sold out 14 of their 16 games at Salt River Fields and attracted 186,828 fans for 16 games.

    Good weather in early March and the buzz created by slugger Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish boosted the box office, said Brad Curtis, association president.

    “I really can’t complain,” Curtis said of the spring season. “A lot of good things happened.”

    Cactus League crowds in five weeks surpassed the regular-season attendance in 2011 for three major league teams in their home markets — the Miami Marlins, Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics.

    Cactus League officials say bigger crowds at the Valley’s 10 stadiums are encouraging for tourism and the economy.

    “Hopefully it’s a sign that things are turning around,” said Dave Dunne, Salt River Fields general manager.

    A fan survey this spring at the ballparks will measure how many visitors attended games and how much they spent during their visits.

    The Cactus League Association estimates that spring baseball contributes $360 million to the local economy, a figure disputed by some economists.

    Visitors last year helped push the Valley’s hotel occupancy in March to 83 percent, and that figure could be higher this year, Curtis said.

    Visiting fans at the Diamondbacks game Monday against the Chicago Cubs at Salt River Fields were enjoying the sunshine despite some gusty winds.

    John Hertko, a frequent spring visitor from Joliet, Ill., said he typically attends two to three games during his visits.

    “They know how to do it right down here with the tourism,” said the retired chiropractor. “And the weather here is No. 1.”

    A group of tailgating Wisconsin fans who winter in Apache Junction turned up for their first visit to Salt River Fields.

    “Tell them to lower ticket prices and beer prices, and we’ll all come out to more games and drink more beer,” said Harold Reader, 73, of Rhinelander, Wis.

    Cactus League prices are up, but fans such as Robert Scott of the San Tan Valley area said the tickets are still a bargain compared to regular-season games at Chase Field.

    The Diamondbacks led the Cactus League and Florida’s Grapefruit League with an average attendance of 11,677, said Dunne. That is up 4.6 percent from last year.

    The Angels at Tempe Diablo Stadium saw the biggest increase with 47 percent more fans this season.

    The six East Valley teams — the Diamondbacks, Angels, Cubs, Rockies, San Francisco Giants, and Athletics — accounted for about 52 percent of 15-team league attendance.

    But all nine of the West Valley teams reported attendance increases, led by the Cleveland Indians with a 25 percent jump.

    Curtis said he would like to see attendance improve for the Indians and Cincinnati Reds at Goodyear Ballpark, the Milwaukee Brewers at Maryvale Baseball Park and Athletics at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. All four teams averaged fewer than 5,800 fans per game.

    The league average was 7,420, in 227 games up 8.3 percent from a year ago.


    Brewers Agreement Keeps Team for Three Year Extension

    By Michael Clancy – Arizona Republic

    The Milwaukee Brewers will remain at Maryvale Stadium for at least three more years and possibly longer under an agreement with Phoenix officials.

    Pending approval by the Phoenix City Council and the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority, the city would add $1.5 million in improvements to the stadium and training complex, at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road.

    The Brewers, National League Central Division champions in 2011, have trained in Maryvale since 1998, when the stadium was built.

    Deputy City Manager Rick Naimark said the agreement is an extension of the original 15-year deal. The council is scheduled to vote on the matter at its meeting on Tuesday.

    “We’ve been working on this for two years, and we are delighted to be there now,” Naimark said. “This is a great deal that speaks for itself.”

    Phoenix had feared the Brewers could move after this season, but the agreement would put that off for three years before the team could exercise its escape clause.

    Bob Quinn, executive vice president of the team, said he thought the trade-off of the Brewers’ ongoing commitment for the improvements was fair. He said discussions would continue about further improvements and a longer commitment.

    “The facility and layout are fine, and our baseball people are happy,” he said. “We need some upgrades in the clubhouse and the weight rooms.”

    Naimark said the deal was important for the city, especially the western part.

    “Maryvale Stadium is a linchpin for west-side development and improvement,” Naimark said. “The statistics show it has worked. Brewers fans contribute $3 million a year in direct spending.”

    Councilman Daniel Valenzuela, who represents the area, said the team also generates $300,000 in taxes.

    “The stadium and the Brewers are points of pride for the area,” he said. “I am thrilled that they have not played their last game in Maryvale.”

    Maryvale finished 13th out of 15 teams in attendance last year. This year, attendance is higher, and the Brewers are ninth, according to Cactus League statistics. It would be the first year in the past five in which attendance has grown.


    Cactus League Looks to Future with East Valley in Play

    By Mike Sakal – East Valley Tribune

    Year after spring training year, the pendulum tied to Arizona’s Cactus League seems to find itself swinging the other way. One year it’s the players front and center; that was the case this month – and in the East Valley in particular – with the arrival of future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols to Tempe Diablo Stadium.

    The next year: It’s the newest spring training complex becoming the crown jewel of preseason play.

    As the 2012 spring campaign nears its conclusion and fans already begin planning for 2013 and beyond, it appears the latter may be set to take shape again – and again be centered in the East Valley. Work on the Chicago Cubs future spring home is underway, and it’s also possible that the Cactus League may tip the scales on Florida’s Grapefruit League by luring another team or two for yet another new facility. That prospect would open the door for Arizona to host the majority of big league teams for what has become both a tourist draw and a local economic engine – benefitting the state by an estimated $350 million a year or more, according to Cactus League statistics.

    Any way you look at it, Arizona’s baseball future is in a good position — one that appears to benefit the East Valley more with each new season as well.

    2012 game changers

    As season tickets in Anaheim, Calif., have increased by 4,000 from a year ago, the Angels’ spring home has also reaped the benefits of two newly-acquired superstars — first baseman Albert Pujols and pitcher C.J. Wilson, widely considered this year’s top free agent slugger and pitcher, respectively.

    Spring training ticket sales for the Angels jumped 19 percent from a year ago and Tempe Diablo Stadium has had more than double the number of sellouts this season (from four to nine) compared to 2011, according to Ryan Cavinder, a media relations representative for the Angels.

    “We’ve really seen a change this year,” Cavinder said. “We’ve never sold out that many games before.”

    Overall, ticket sales for Cactus League games are up 176,000 — a 15 percent jump from this point a year ago, according to Brad Curtis, president of the Cactus League.

    Cubs setting off chain reaction

    The Chicago Cubs are annually one of the Cactus League’s top attendance draws, a scenario only likely to get stronger as the Cubs leave Mesa’s Hohokam Stadium (and nearby practice facility Fitch Field) for a new $99 million complex at Riverview Park, near Dobson Road and the Loop 202, in time for the 2014 season. With the recent closure of Riverview Golf Course, dirt is beginning to turn and trees are being removed to make room for what will be practice fields and a miniature version of Chicago’s iconic Wrigley Field.

    While the Cubs still have one more year left at Hohokam, the attention in 2013 is undoubtedly going to be on the nearby construction of the spring training’s newest palace.

    But that could be just the start of the next great stadium race, and the East Valley could be the prime recipients of such a seismic shift.

    A’s, Brewers may be on the move

    With the Cubs moving up the road, the Oakland A’s are in exclusive talks with Mesa to become the primary tenant at both Hohokam and Fitch.

    A deal between the A’s and the city could emerge as early as April, Mesa Mayor Scott Smith said.

    The team has used the negotiation period to watch how the city’s Hohokam Stadium and Fitch Park have served the Chicago Cubs during spring training. They’ve identified improvements they’d like, most of which are at Fitch, Smith said.

    Oakland’s agreement with Phoenix expires at the end of the 2014 spring training session.

    The Milwaukee Brewers are also weighing their options, and may consider leaving Phoenix’s Maryvale Baseball Park for a potential 80-acre site in Scottsdale or one on the Gila River Indian Community in Chandler. The Brewers, who have until April 14 to exercise the first of three two-year club options to extend their Maryvale lease, wouldn’t be the first team to try and play ball with Gila River; it was proposed that the Cubs move to a site near Wild Horse Pass and Interstate 10 in Chandler, but the voter passage of Proposition 420 in November 2010 kept the Cubs in Mesa.

    Teams continue, however, to look for close proximity to a highway, lots of land for future growth, and interested areas to build a stadium — a formula that helped the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community bring the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies to Scottsdale with last year’s debut, Salt River Fields.

    The Brewers are continuing talks with Phoenix this week to discuss possible upgrades to Maryvale, where they’ve spent each spring since leaving Chandler’s Compadre Stadium in 1998.

    Curtis downplayed any talks that the Brewers have had with Scottsdale and Gila River, noting that when a team nears the end of its lease with a city, it is commonplace to put together a “wish list” of upgrades; it’s also common to visit other locales to discuss the possibility of resting their gloves in a new location.

    However, Curtis added that spring training facilities accommodating one team are becoming a thing of the past.

    It isn’t known at this time whether the Brewers would share any new site with a second team, but it’s probable if a new facility is built.

    Peoria Sports Complex, Surprise Stadium, Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Goodyear Stadium and Salt River Fields in Scottsdale all have been built in Arizona in the last decade and accommodate two teams.

    “It is unlikely that anyone would build a new facility for one small market team,” Curtis said. “Let’s face it, a one-team facility is rare these days.”

    Two Fla. teams scouting new Ariz. digs?

    Not citing which teams, Curtis said he knows of two Grapefruit League teams that have visited Arizona to talk to cities who have put together proposals.

    Reports have said the Toronto Blue Jays and the Houston Astros have expressed an interest in leaving Florida for Arizona, but Curtis said that any preliminary discussions are confidential.

    “Teams from the Grapefruit League visit Arizona for a number of reasons,” Curtis said. “One, everyone wants the new stadiums and the best of the best — and Arizona has the most state-of-the-art stadiums. They also want to see what the Cactus League is about and if there’s space out here for them. But they also use us to work one community against the other in trying to get what they want in Florida.

    “These things don’t happen overnight,” Curtis added of any new teams coming. “Bonds have to pass and financing has to be arranged.”

    But for now, the A’s and Brewers looking to relocate locally may be enough to change the game.

    Zuzette Kisto, a spokeswoman for the Gila River Indian Community, said this week the community has no comment about the status of talks with the Brewers.

    Although Brewers executive vice president of finance and administration Bob Quinn could not be reached directly for comment, he said in a team-issued news release last week that the club remained open to all of its options, including staying put at Maryvale.