Phoenix gears up for a smashing spring training season

By Rebecca Larsen, Contributor

CamelbackPHOENIX - There's nothing like a spring training trip to Phoenix: Tickets are cheap and relatively easy to get and the stadiums are so small that you're getting up-close and personal with all your favorite players and the best rookie prospects. And then there's all that sunshine and golf.

Last year, more than 1.1 million fans watched Cactus League teams in action in Phoenix and Tucson. This year, officials expect an even better turnout. "We blew through the past attendance records in 2002 even though we were dealing with the remnants of 9/11, the softening economy and the potential of a baseball strike. This year almost all of that has disappeared, and we think we can reach 1.3 million," says Jerry Geiger, president of the Cactus League Association.

Why all the excitement? For one thing, everyone hopes that the all-California World Series will inspire fans from the Golden State to drive down in droves. The San Francisco Giants (sanfrancisco.giants.mlb.com) have their spring training facility in Scottsdale; while the Anaheim Angels (anaheim.angels.mlb.com) are based in Tempe.

In addition, the Kansas City Royals (kansascity.royals.mlb.com) and Texas Rangers (texas.rangers.mlb.com) will move their spring training from the Grapefruit League in Florida to the Cactus League this year.

By the way, Anaheim and San Francisco will play each other four times during spring training: March 1, 9, 11 and 19.

Where to go, whom to see, where to play and stay

Nine Major League Baseball teams hold spring training in Phoenix at seven stadiums. Four stadiums are clustered on the east side of the Valley of the Sun and four to the west. The completion of the Loop 101 freeway has made it a snap to reach all of them no matter where you stay in the Phoenix metro area. Although it might seem as if more people would go to games on the east side - in the Scottsdale-Mesa-Tempe area - last year, the Seattle Mariners, located way out in Peoria, northwest of Phoenix, drew the most fans of all - 156,047.

Hohokam ParkIn the past, it has been possible to walk up to the gate and buy tickets at almost all the spring-training stadiums. The one exception, reportedly, is Hohokam Park, home of the Cubs, where there are some sell-outs. And, of course, it's possible that the two Fall Classic teams - the Giants and the Angels - may also have bigger crowds this year. Best to check for tickets in advance or you might be out of luck.

Here is a rundown on teams you can find in the Phoenix area, along with great places to play golf near the parks, and some suggestions about where to stay.

To check out the entire Cactus League Schedule, look at www.cactus-league.com.

1 - Chicago Cubs

The team: Arizona play begins for the Chicago Cubs on Feb. 28 at Hohokam Park located at 1235 N. Center in Mesa. This ballpark, built in 1997, can hold more than 12,600 fans and is one of the largest Cactus League stadiums. There are five types of tickets ranging from lower box/infield ($15) to a general admission ticket for $5 providing lawn seating. For news on Cubs spring training call (480) 964-4467. Check out www.cubspringtraining.com for more information on tickets and the schedule.

The golf: One of the best courses to play in the Phoenix area is in Mesa - Las Sendas Golf Club, located at 7555 E. Eagle Crest Drive. Las Sendas, in the desert uplands at the east end of town, was designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. Lots of mountain scenery here plus a tough course - 6,874 yards from the back tees with a slope of 142 and a rating of 73.5. Call (602) 396-4000. Web site: www.lassendas.com.

Ocotillo Golf ClubIf you're staying in Mesa, you'll be only a short drive from another special course, the 27-hole Ocotillo Golf Club in Chandler, a wild collection of waterscapes concocted by golf architect Ted Robinson. This course has so many canals and lakes that you could pick Ocotillo up and move it to Florida and it would fit right in. Maintenance here is superb: emerald-green fairways and sparkling clean waterways. The course plays at about 6,700 or 6,800 yards from the back tees depending on what combination of 18 holes you play. The course is located at 3751 S. Clubhouse Drive, Chandler. Phone: 800-767-3574; http://www.arizonagolfpackages.com/courses/ocotillo.htm

Places to stay: A great place to stay in Mesa to soak up more baseball atmosphere might be the Best Western Dobson Ranch Inn, which serves as headquarters for the coaches, executives and some Cub players. The inn is a 10-acre resort with about 200 rooms and has a Western flavor. It's located at 1666 S. Dobson Road in Mesa. Call (800) 528-1356. Another possibility is Country Inn and Suites at 6650 E. Superstition Springs Blvd., Mesa. Call (800) 456-4000.

For more information on Mesa, call the Convention and Visitors Bureau at (800) 283-MESA or visit www.mesacvb.com.

2 - Milwaukee Brewers

The team: Maryvale Sports Park at 3600 N. 51st Ave. in southwest Phoenix is the site of Brewers spring training action starting Feb. 28. Ticket prices range from $13 for field boxes to lawn seats at $5 and can be obtained by clicking on www.milwaukee.brewers.mlb.com or by phoning (800) 883-4988. In addition a parking fee of $6 is charged at Maryvale.

The golf: Staying in or near the Brewers stadium puts you closer to golf courses on the west side of the Valley of the Sun. One great possibility is Estrella Mountain Ranch Golf Club, a high-end, daily fee course with mountain scenery in the middle of new home developments. This course was designed by Jack Nicklaus II, eldest son of the Golden Bear. The course plays at 7,116 from the back tees with a rating of 73.6 and a slope of 136. It's located at 11800 S. Golf Club Drive in Goodyear. Call (623) 386-2600 for reservations. Web site: www.troongolf.com.

Places to stay: To be frank, this part of Phoenix is not a tourist's paradise, so you might want to stay in nearby Glendale or out in Scottsdale. But the Maryvale area is close to the airport and to lots of chain motels and restaurants. One possibility for a motel: The Hampton Inn Phoenix at 5152 W. Latham St. Call (602) 484-7000 for reservations.

3 - San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners

The teams: Both the San Diego Padres and the Seattle Mariners train at one of the premier facilities in the country called the Peoria Sports Complex located at 16101 N. 83rd Avenue in Peoria, in the northwest Phoenix area. This $34 million facility was recently completed and became the first two-team facility built for Major League Baseball. It has 13 practice fields on site. Action begins on Feb. 27 when the Padres take on Seattle. Tickets are on sale at six different prices that range from $21 for club seats to $4 for lawn seating. Tickets for San Diego can be obtained online at www.sandiego.padres.mlb.com and for Seattle at www.seattle.mariners.mlb.com.

The golf: This stadium puts you very close to the Sun City area, which is loaded with golf courses, some of them connected with the legendary "adult" communities located here. But you might think about playing a little farther southwest at the Wigwam Resort which has three older courses, two designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., and one done by Robert "Red" Lawrence. They offer traditional style golf with fairly long and wide fairways. Wigwam is located at 451 N. Litchfield Road in Litchfield Park. Call (602) 272-4653 for tee times. The Wigwam is also a western style resort with lots of history and a great restaurant. Guests stay in little casitas on the property, many of which have recently been spiffed up in a multi-million dollar renovation.

Another club near Wigwam is Palm Valley at 2211 N. Litchfield Road in Goodyear. Call (623) 935-2500 for reservations. Palm Valley has a short course (4,764 yards from the back tees) that was designed by Hale Irwin and a regulation length course (7,015 yards from the back) designed by Arthur Hills.

Places to stay: There are lots of motel choices in Peoria, some of which are within walking distance of the stadium. For example:

- Comfort Suites, 8473 W. Paradise Lane. Call (800) 228-5150 or (623) 334-3993.

- Hampton Inn, 8408 W. Paradise Lane. Call (800) HAMPTON or (623) 426-7866.

- La Quinta Inn & Suites, 16321 N. 83rd Ave. Call (623) 487-1900.

4 - Oakland Athletics

The team: The Oakland Athletics will again play their home games at Phoenix Municipal Stadium near Papago Park in central Phoenix at 5999 E. Van Buren St. The home opener will be Feb. 28 against the Milwaukee Brewers. There are four levels of ticket prices ranging from $14 for a lower box to $5 for bleachers. By the way, the city of Phoenix has plans to pour $6 million soon into renovating this stadium to keep the A's happy. Use the Web site www.oakland.athletics.mlb.com for more information on tickets.

The golf: Quite close to the A's stadium is the city-owned Papago Golf Course, 5595 E. Moreland. Call (602) 275-8428 for tee times. This is the city's most popular muni course, set among the picturesque red rocks of the Papago area. It's inexpensive, too. Non-residents can walk for $28; it costs $11 to rent a cart.

Camelback InnA place to stay and play: The A's stadium is actually quite close to Scottsdale and very near to the historic Camelback Inn. The inn has two courses - the Resort, built in 1970 and redesigned in 1999, and the Club, a 7,014-yard, par-72, links-style course designed in 1978 by Arthur Jack Snyder. You'll want to play the par-72, 6,903-yard Resort Course, formerly called the Padre. Three years ago, this course remodeled by Arthur Hills of Ohio, known for Mirasol in Palm Beach.

Address for the golf courses: 7847 N. Mockingbird Lane, Scottsdale. Phone: (480) 596-7050 or (800) 24-CAMEL. Web site: www.camelbackgolf.com. The nearby Camelback Inn is located at 5402 E. Lincoln Drive, Scottsdale; phone, (480) 948-1700 or (800) 24-CAMEL. Web site: www.camelbackinn.com.

5 - Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals

The teams: The new Rangers-Royals facility, Surprise Stadium, is really a state-of-the-art training complex complete with several full and mini-practice fields for both teams besides the main stadium located on about 145 acres. The grand opening for the complex will be held on Feb. 27 in the West Valley town of Surprise when the Rangers play the Royals. The new complex including stadium is located at 1560 N. Bullard Ave. and was constructed at a cost $48.3 million.

Lots of ticket options here, including spring training season packages. In addition, individual game tickets are available. Prices range from $5 for lawn seating to $20 for club seats. Click on team Web sites to purchase tickets: texas.rangers.mlb.com and kansascity.royals.mlb.com.

The golf: Surprise is way out there in Sun City-land just like Peoria. One possibility here is the brand-new Cimarron Golf Club at Sun City Grand, a desert-style course designed by Greg Nash as part of a home development. The course plays at 6,800 yards with water in play on nine holes. The club is located at 17100 W. Clearview Blvd., Surprise. Call (623) 975-5654. Two other courses, also designed by Nash are nearby. Desert Springs Golf Club is located at 19900 N. Remington Drive. Call (623) 546-7400.

Granite Falls Golf Club is located at 15949 W. Clearview Blvd. Call (623) 546-7575. All three have reasonable green fees, even during the high season.

Places to stay: Try the Quality Inn and Suites at 16741 N. Greasewood St. in Surprise. Call (623) 583-3500. Also, the Best Inn and Suites at 12477 W. Bell Road; phone (623) 933-4000.

6 - San Francisco Giants

The team: The National League pennant winners, the San Francisco Giants, return to Scottsdale Stadium for spring training with a first game Feb. 27 against the Chicago Cubs. Everyone agrees that aesthetically speaking this is one of the best Cactus League parks, located at 7408 E. Osborn Road. It's also in downtown Scottsdale, making it accessible to tons of restaurants and motels.

Go out to the park early and enjoy batting practice from 10 to 11 a.m. followed by the visitors' batting practice from 11 a.m. to noon. The infield practice for the Giants is between noon and 12:15. From 12:15 until 12:30 the visitors practice infield drills.

Tickets are available at sanfrancisco.giants.mlb.com and are priced from $7 for lawn seating on weekdays to $21 for box seats on weekends.

The golf: If you've never been to Scottsdale before, you're going to be amazed at the variety of golfing options here. Be prepared; many of the courses command top prices. Most of the best and newest courses are located several miles from the stadium.

We-Ko-PaWe could go on and on with recommendations, but be sure to try We-Ko-Pa, on the Fort McDowell Indian Reservation, just a few miles away. We-Ko-Pa, a desert-target course designed by renowned Scottsdale architect Scott Miller, is located at 18200 E. Toh Vee Circle in Fountain Hills. You want to strive for accurate tee shots here; this is not a forgiving course. Phone 800-767-3574 for reservations. http://www.arizonagolfpackages.com/courses/wekopa.htm

Scott Miller has also designed 27 challenging holes at Kierland Golf Club, next door to the Westin Kierland, a brand-new resort that's worth touring as well. The club's address there is 15636 Clubgate Drive, Scottsdale, near Greenway Parkway. Call 800-767-3574 for reservations. http://www.arizonagolfpackages.com/courses/kierland.htm

For a more traditional round of golf in the heart of town, play the long and tough Palm or Pine courses at McCormick Ranch Golf Club, 7505 E. McCormick Parkway, Scottsdale. Call 800-767-3574 for reservations. http://www.arizonagolfpackages.com/courses/mccormick.htm

Places to stay: Scottsdale is loaded with plush resorts like the Westin Kierland and the Phoenician, for example. But the real fun is to stay downtown near Old Town Scottsdale so you can walk to the ballpark, the galleries and Western stores, and the fantastic restaurants. We'd suggest Marriott Suites Scottsdale Old Town at 7325 E. Third Ave. as one possibility. Phone: 800-767-3574.

Be sure to eat one night at Cowboy Ciao, at Sixth Avenue and Stetson Drive; phone, (480) 946-3111. It's a trendy, yet friendly place that fuses Southwestern and Italian cuisine successfully.

And spend another evening at Don & Charlie's, the he-man eatery with a baseball theme where all the players and coaches hang out. It's located at 7501 E. Camelback Road; phone, (480) 990-0900.

The Pink Pony, a retro steakhouse at 3831 N. Scottsdale Road, is another possibility; phone, (480) 945-6697. It's an old-time place that used to be the in-spot for the Giants until Don & Charlie's came along.

7 - Anaheim Angels

The team: The champion Anaheim Angels will begin the defense of their MLB crown at Tempe Diablo Stadium located at 2200 W. Alameda Drive in Tempe on Feb. 28 against the Seattle Mariners. Tickets are available through the team Web site (anaheim.angels.mlb.com) and will be priced from $5 for lawn seats to $15 for box seats.

The golf: If you're staying near the ballpark, there are lots of great new courses that have been built in the south of Phoenix area in the past few years that will be close by.

Phantom Horse Golf ClubOne great course, Phantom Horse Golf Club at the Pointe at South Mountain, has recently been renovated, including the addition of an island green on the par-4 No. 18. The first nine holes have a very traditional feeling - lots of green grass, palm trees and water hazards. The back nine takes you up South Mountain where it's more of a desert-target style course with a peaceful parklike setting. Phantom Horse is located at 7777 S. Pointe Parkway in Phoenix. The course is now a par 71 and measures just over 6,300 yards, about 100 yards longer than before. Phone: 800-767-3574. Web site: http://www.arizonagolfpackages.com/courses/phantomhorse.htm. If you're interested in staying at the resort (it has 640 suites), check out www.pointesouthmtn.com.

Another outstanding course is the Raven Golf Club at South Mountain, at 3636 E. Baseline Road, Phoenix. Call 800-767-3574 for tee times. Designed by Gary Panks and David Graham, this course is home to 7,000 pine trees that create a serene, almost forest-like setting on many of the fairways. http://www.arizonagolfpackages.com/courses/raven.htm

Legacy Golf ResortAlso try the Legacy Golf Club, 6806 S. 32nd St., Phoenix. Phone: 602 305-5550. The lush modern yet traditional golf course here is also a Gary Panks design. It was built on a giant ranch once owned by Arizona pioneer Dwight B. Heard.

Another place to stay: Right next door to Anaheim stadium is the Wyndham Buttes Resort, located at 2000 Westcourt Way in Tempe. Phone: (602) 225-9000.

Rebecca LarsenRebecca Larsen, Contributor

Rebecca Larsen is a former features and assistant features editor for the Marin Independent Journal, a medium-sized daily paper located north of San Francisco. She has also worked for the Milwaukee Journal and for a Chicago public relations firm. She has a bachelor's in journalism from Northwestern University and a master's from the University of California at Berkeley.


Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • 2006 spring training packages

    Nick Leonoudakis wrote on: Apr 11, 2005

    Am curious when the 2006 spring training packages go on sale.
    I need accomodations for up to 10 people for approximately 4 nights.
    Would also like at least 10 tickets to any SF Giants game.
    We would also be interested in playing golf possibly twice at local area golf courses.

    Reply

  • 2006 Schedule

    John Biedenkapp wrote on: Jan 19, 2005

    I can't attend this year but would like to know the dates for the 2006 Spring Training. Is it always the first 2 weeks for March?

    Reply