It is a little off the beaten path, even for the compact Cactus League. But the immaculately maintained Surprise Stadium is a good bet for spring training, as the home of the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers is worth the trek.
Surprise Stadium hasn’t changed a whole lot since opening in 2003, but that’s OK: when opened, it was state of the art and it has not slipped too much when compared to newer facilities like Salt River Fields and Sloan Park. It’s a spacious complex, with plenty of practice fields for both teams. The ballpark itself is basic, though it has one unique feature appreciated by many: it’s actually a double-decker facility, with a second level completely shaded.
If you’ve been to Surprise Stadium recently, there’s not a lot we can add to your experience, as the place really hasn’t changed (except for the surrounding Surprise area: Surprise seems to be a boom town, and there’s been lots of development in the area in recent years). If you’ve not been to Surprise Stadium, it’s worth the drive.
The setup is basic. Most fans will enter the ballpark at the center-field gate (where the ticket booths are located) or the third-base corner. The Rangers occupy the first-base area, while the Royals occupy the third-base area. Batting cages can be viewed for each team, and each team enters the ballpark next to the bullpens in the corners. (This makes it hard for autograph hounds; players never really interact much with fans.) Most concessions are located in the grandstand, while there’s also a large concessions area down the third-base line. The concessions at the larger are pretty basic – foot longs, hamburgers, macro brews (a PBR bomber goes for $10.75), brats, barbeque – but combos are available. For instance, a barbeque combo includes a sandwich, fries, soda and peanuts for $12.25. There are some specialty beers on tap, like Shiner Bock, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Goose Island 312, Hangar 24 and Four Peaks.
And, of course, the parking is free, which makes the cost of a Pabst Blue Ribbon more palatable.
However, be prepared. Bring your sunscreen: there’s not much shade in the ballpark unless you’re sitting in the second level, which covers only half of the lower level once a game starts. On a beautiful day — like we experienced yesterday — you could easily roast under the hot Arizona sun. But that’s really one of the only drawbacks to Surprise Stadium: it’s still one of the more pleasant ballpark experiences in the Cactus League and worth the drive out to the western side of the Valley.