Diamondbacks and Rockies will train on tribal land

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community has partnered with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies to build a $100 million spring training facility. It will be the first Major League spring training facility in the U.S. on tribal land.

According to the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the teams and the community, Salt River will fund, build and operate the two-team facility under a 25-year agreement with options to extend.

The Diamondbacks and Rockies will be moving to the new 11,000-seat stadium in 2011. The complex will house 12 practice fields located on 140 acres northwest of Loop 101 and Indian Bend Road, just east of Scottsdale. The multipurpose complex will also include rehabilitation facilities, office buildings with Major and Minor League clubhouses and offices for each team.

“We are very excited about being with the Colorado Rockies and working with the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community to build this great facility,” said Shaun Rachau, Diamondbacks vice president of communications. “It’s in a good location and we are really looking forward to moving there in 2011.”

Three Major League Baseball teams trained in Tucson until last season, when the Chicago White Sox moved to the Phoenix area with the Los Angeles Dodgers. That left the Diamondbacks and Rockies in Tucson with a two hour drive to Phoenix to play against other teams during spring training – where they often didn’t face enough competition because some teams refused to bring star players.

With the Diamondbacks fan base primarily in the metro Phoenix area, they were averaging about 6,000 people a game in Tucson. “Obviously we expect a larger amount of fans to come out to our games when we move up to the Phoenix area in north Scottsdale,” Rachau said.

The Diamondbacks, Rockies and Salt River are working to make the complex the best in baseball. “One of our goals is to keep the stadium shaded in areas so our fans can enjoy themselves and watch a game comfortably. We also want our fans to be interactive throughout the complex with our players so they can get autographs, take pictures and talk to these guys and have a one-on-one relationship,” he said.

The new facility will break ground Nov. 1. HKS Architects, who designed Glendale’s Camelback Ranch for the Dodgers and Chicago White Sox as well as the Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, is designing the facility, with an expected completion date in January 2011.

Community leaders believe new jobs and increased business opportunities along the north Pima Corridor will bring economic development. Hoping to become known as an entertainment district, the area also boasts Salt River’s newest 240,000-square-foot casino – Talking Stick Resort, less than one mile from the new stadium. The $400 million casino and hotel is scheduled to open in early 2010.

“The vision of bringing this facility to the community is exciting,” said Salt River Vice President Martin Harvier. “This community has historical ties to ball courts that were here hundreds of years ago. Although the ball games our ancestors played were not today’s baseball, we hope families will come to the new stadium and leave with wonderful memories of what baseball is all about.”

Harvier said funding will not come from tribal gaming money and will not hamper services to community members. “The community is looking at a variety of financing options, including loans, Build America Bonds and federal stimulus dollars.”

Scottsdale Mayor W.J. “Jim” Lane said the city of Scottsdale sees the move as a positive one. “I think Major League Baseball spring training has had tremendous growth in the valley and has served the entire area very well. Given that growth, we are open to more of an emphasis on baseball, its traditions and the economic growth it brings to the area. The new spring training facilities are going to be a great amenity.”

The Rockies will continue to train at Tucson’s Hi Corbett Field through 2011, while the Diamondbacks are committed to the Tucson Electric Park through the 2012 spring season.

J.P. de la Montaigne, Peoria community services director and past president of the Cactus League, thinks the partnership is a winning situation. “As a Cactus League, we are unhappy about Tucson not being able to continue with a Cactus League team, but hopefully they will be able to replace them with other teams, or other opportunities.”

According to Montaigne, there has been some discussion of international teams training at Electric Park in the future. “Peoria got into Cactus League spring training baseball 17 years ago. At that time there was pretty much nothing for two miles in every direction surrounding our new stadium. Now we have numerous hotels, 18 restaurants, bowling alleys and movie theaters. We did it to get involved in the economic development aspect of what tourism would bring to our community. If that is the goal of this partnership, I think it makes a lot of sense.”

The new complex will improve competition for both teams by placing all 14 Cactus League teams in the valley.