Phoenix Gears Up for Spring Training with Stadium Upgrades and Cactus League Exhibit

Written by Wynter Holden Category: Culture Issue: February 2016
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Photo courtesy Mesa Historical MuseumPhoenix may not have the same “sports town” reputation as Chicago or L.A., but thanks to our gorgeous weather we have one thing other cities can’t offer baseball fans: spring training. Come March, the Phoenix metro area becomes home base for 15 teams including the Chicago Cubs, Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Studies sponsored by Governor Doug Ducey and Major League Baseball last year showed that these games brought an estimated $300 million dollars in revenue, with more than half of attendees traveling here from other states.

The 2016 Cactus League Spring Training season kicks off with an opening battle between the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds on March 1 at Goodyear Ballpark. Stadium crews are currently readying facilities including Peoria Sports Complex (home of the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners), which recently saw a 700-seat upgrade and the addition of an air-conditioned Colonnade area with full bar.

Visitors flying in to catch the games can get an eyeful of Cactus League history at the Arizona Spring Training Experience, a year-round exhibition of local baseball history on display at Mesa Historical Museum. The show is part of the Cactus League Legacy Trail, a self-guided tour of baseball history that also includes photos and memorabilia on display at Scottsdale’s newly renovated Pink Pony restaurant.

The league was founded in the 1940s, reportedly after visiting officials stumbled upon a rejuvenating mineral bath and spa that could help soothe their players’ sore muscles after practice games. Soon the Giants and Indians relocated to Mesa for spring training, with other teams following suit.

The Arizona Spring Training Experience opened in 2009 under the name “Play Ball!” with national attention and onsite signings by Baseball Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry. The exhibit later expanded to include satellite installations at Goodyear Ballpark and Tempe Diablo Stadium. Look for memorabilia from the Cactus League’s early days, along with historical photos and a timeline chronicling growth of the national pastime.

Mesa Historical Museum is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday. Admission costs $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and $3 for kids ages 3-12.