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on location: west â?– very February and March, Major League Baseball players flock to the Valley of the Sun to prepare for another season of baseball. Professional baseball has had a presence in Arizona since the early 1900s when minor league teams frequently

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stopped there to play exhibition games before their regular season. It has progressed over the years and continues to grow. Currently, 15 teams and 10 first-class Cactus League stadiums draw large numbers of fans and provide significant economic impact to Arizona cities. These cities roll out the red

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

The boys of summer lure groups to Arizona for springtime fun in the sun

The San Francisco Giants play the Arizona Diamondbacks at Scottsdale Stadium.

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carpet to groups following their favorite teams while enjoying Arizona’s sunshine, world-class attractions, dining options and fabulous shopping. Surrounded by the scenic landscapes of the Sonoran Desert, Greater Phoenix provides the excitement of the Old West within a thriving metropolitan area brimming with cultural and outdoor activity. The Cactus League contributes more than $350 million to Arizona’s economy. The training facilities draw the teams and the teams draw the fans. The stadiums are attractions in themselves and all do tours for groups. Stadiums and their teams: Camelback Ranch, Glendale – Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers Maryvale Baseball Park, Maryvale – Milwaukee Brewers Peoria Sports Complex, Peoria – San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, Salt River Pima Indian Reservation – Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies Surprise Recreation Campus, Surprise – Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers Goodyear Ballpark, Goodyear – Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds Hohokam Stadium, Mesa – Chicago Cubs Phoenix Municipal Stadium, Phoenix – Oakland A’s Scottsdale Stadium, Scottsdale – San Francisco Giants Tempe Diablo Stadium, Tempe – Angels Baseball In addition, Chase Field in downtown Phoenix, the regular season home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, provides tours, including the right field swimming pool, fountains and indoor picnic area. When planning a spring training tour, plan to visit the Arizona Historical Society Museum at Papago Park in LeisureGroupTravel.com

The Cincinnati Reds meet the Cleveland Indians at Goodyear Ballpark.

Tempe. Through March of 2013 it will host Play Ball: The Cactus League Experience, an exhibit that provides a nostalgic look at Cactus League history. With so many teams and Valley destinations to choose from, how do groups decide on a host city and itinerary? It’s an easy solution if the group is from a certain city or follows a certain team. But if this is not the case, former NTA chairman and big-time baseball fan Bob Hoelscher has a few words of wisdom for fellow tour operators. Hoelscher feels that Surprise’s stadium and Goodyear Ballpark are good choices because they have a more intimate atmosphere than some of the larger stadiums. It is easier to get up-close and personal with players. Additionally, Hoelscher recommends the Peoria stadium because hotels, shopping and dining are all within walking distance of the ballpark. Soon the Chicago Cubs will have the same opportunity in Mesa with the opening of a new stadium that includes an adjacent retail and entertainment development called Wrigleyville West. Developers hope to lure Chicago-area businesses to the site. Mesa also will be opening a “Cactus League Trail” with two or three baseball exhibits. Sites will be the Mesa City Hall lobby, Mesa Convention & Visitors Bureau lobby and Hohokam Stadium. Completion dates for these projects are not known at this time. While in Mesa, groups will want to check out the Diamond Sports Grille (formerly owned by Cubs broadcaster

Well-supplied vendors – a sure sign the baseball season has begun.

Harry Caray). Located several blocks from the stadium, the place is alive with Cub fans after the game. Fans can check out Cubs, White Sox, Bears, Bulls and Blackhawk memorabilia. It is like never leaving Chicago. Scottsdale Stadium also is surrounded by shopping and dining options. It was the end of an era when owner Gwen Briley closed The Pink Pony Restaurant in 2009 after a slow summer in the midst of the recession. Located just blocks from the ballpark, this Scottsdale Old Town institution was long known as a hangout for baseball’s creme de la creme, who would fill the place during Cactus League season to eat steaks and drink martinis. Now, The Pink Pony is on the verge of a comeback, thanks to new owners. For those wanting to get away from all the action around Old Town Scottsdale after the game but keep the sports December 2011 47


on location: west ❖ DESTINATION

HEARD

David Bradley (Chippewa), “The Tradition Lives On,” 2008 PHOENIX: 2301 N. Central Ave. Phoenix, AZ 85004 602.252.8848 | Light Rail stop: Central/ Encanto

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theme going, Fox Sports Grill is a great spot to watch a game and top off the evening with a “Baseball Cut” top sirloin. Camelback Ranch, the largest park in the Cactus League, is owned by the City of Glendale and features a two-acre lake. It has picturesque walking trails, landscaped grounds and an orange grove. Guests enjoy water features and a fully stocked lake between the Dodgers and White Sox facilities. The park includes more than 118,000 square feet of major and minor league clubhouse space, 13 full baseball fields and three halffields. It has a seating capacity of 13,000, which includes 3,000 lawn seats, 12 luxury suites and a party deck. The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community has partnered with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies to build Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, the first Major

League Baseball spring training facility to be built on Indian land. The complex includes an 11,000-seat ballpark and 12 practice fields. It is located near Talking Stick Golf Club, Pavilions retail center, Talking Stick Resort and Casino Arizona at Talking Stick. So, the choices are many. Make spring training in Arizona part of your group’s future travel plans. It means great games, great players, jumbo hot dogs, inexpensive tickets and the opportunity to get close to the athletes while soaking in the sun and hearing the crack of the bat. It doesn’t get any better than that! LGT Obtain Arizona visitor guides and itineraries – and contact groupfriendly suppliers directly – at leisuregrouptravel.com/instant-info

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Arizona  

on location: west O sue arko 46December 2011 LeisureGroupTravel.com stopped there to play exhibition games before their regular season. It h...