With two new ballparks slated to open this month and next in the Cactus League, spring-training fans making the trip to Phoenix will have yet more options for fun in the sun. Today we look at Goodyear Ballpark, the new home of the Cleveland Indians; Monday we’ll look at Camelback Ranch, the new home of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox.
Goodyear, located on the far western edge of the greater Phoenix area, isn’t the first place to come to mind when brainstorming for ideal spring-training locales. True, it’s growing like mad – the population rising from 18,911 in 2000 to an estimated 55,954 in 2007 – and many large businesses, including Lockheed, Macy’s and Lufthansa, have large-scale operations there.
And any city experiencing rapid growth in the Valley of the Sun sets their sights on one thing: spring training. For the Cleveland Indians, a spring-training match was made in heaven: the city is named after the Ohio-based tire manufacturer, and the firm had operations in the city for decades.
Besides having a growing population, Goodyear has two other things important to landing spring training: money and land. Both play out in the city’s spring training district, which features an 8,000-seat ballpark and training complexes for the Indians (already open) and the Cincinnati Reds (slated to open either at the end of this year or early next year, in anticipation of the team moving spring operations to Arizona in 2010). Once an entertainment/retail district is added to the mix—and we’re confident it will, despite some issues with the original developer, as there’s plenty of new development popping up along Estrella Parkway – you have the makings of a great spring-training atmosphere.
Goodyear Ballpark is a deceptively simple ballpark, even for a spring-training facility. The ballpark consists of a grandstand, seating extending down each line to the foul poles, wraparound concourse, concession booth as part of the batters’ eye, a large outfield berm, and a right-field party deck sitting on top of the clubhouses and batting cages. Within the grandstand’s main level are a team store, concessions and restrooms. As you can tell from the accompanying photos, the grandstand is a very vertical space, creating a nice little tension with the horizontal lines that so dominate the local landscape.
The vertical grandstand will feature some of the nicest spots to watch a Cactus League game. On the second level are a smaller press box and six suites. The suites are nontraditional, more akin to a party zone than anything else. The only permanent fixture in the suite is a half-moon-shaped bar in the middle of the space, perfect for a group standing around and watching a game. A garage-door style set of windows can be opened to a table and chairs set up on the patio. The feel, we expect, will be that of a casual gathering, with groups circling the bar and watching the game from the inside of the suite. The suite layout is a nice touch for the spring-training feel.
On the top floor of the grandstand is a large group area. It can be sold in different ways – for larger or midsized groups, or as a general party area when nothing else is going on. The view of the field is great, as is the view of the surrounding area: you can see University of Phoenix Stadium in the distance.
Because there are no training facilities at the ballpark, fans will have a short distance between their cars and the front gates. Four entrances provide entry to the ballpark, and although an incredible plaza serving as the main gate is the farthest away from the parking areas, we’d recommend fans walk to the plaza and hang out a little bit before entering the ballpark. Water fountains and a 60-foot, six-inch-high baseball statue provide a great atmosphere.
The 400-capacity right-field party deck, where some all-you-can-eat events are already planned, should prove to be one of the more popular party areas in the Cactus League. It’s a nice, defined space with a good view of the action and a great vantage point for watching players come and go. The massive bar is on wheels, allowing the space to be reconfigured for different events.
There should be plenty of shade at the ballpark. The three-story grandstand has the added bonus of providing shade to seats in the back of the seating bowl at the start of an afternoon game. A premium seating area down the left-field line will be covered by a canopy.
Kids will be very welcome at the ballpark – and that’s not always so in spring-training facilities. A Wiffle-ball field in the right-field corner will provide a welcome diversion to kids bored with baseball, and a large open area in the left-field corner will be a good place to run around. There’s room on the berm for 1,600 or so, and we’re guessing a lot of families will be bringing the blankets and hunkering down for the day.
Concessions are not overwhelming. There will be plenty of mobile points of sale on the concourse, with two main stands in the grandstand and another in the center-field batter’s eye.
Some minor notes:
– Of immediate interest is attending workouts for the Indians. The team’s training facility is located south of the ballpark. Fans will have partial access to two training fields on the north side of the facility. The main practice field is set up with the same dimension as Progressive Field. There are small sets of bleachers overlooking each field, but access to players are limited: a fence is set up roughly next to first base, so you’ll be limited to viewing the action from the left- and right-field corners of the practice fields. Players will need to go out of their way to interact with fans during practices.
– Clubhouses for both teams are beyond the right-field wall, so players will be entering the ballpark from there. We’re guessing the best spots for snaring a signature will be in the seats down the right-field line. In an unusual design move, Goodyear placed handicapped seating in the corner seating jutting out toward home plate.
– The Indians’ dugout will be down the first base line, while the Reds’ is on the first-base side.