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Salt River Fields to Host MLB Spring Training

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Salt River Fields at Talking Stick has yet to officially open, but the $100 million state-of-the-art facility is already receiving rave reviews. The stadium will serve as the spring training home for a pair of Major League Baseball (MLB) squads, the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies.

The facility, located on 140 acres of land, is on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, which is located in metropolitan Phoenix. It is the first MLB spring training stadium built on Native land.

"It's truly amazing how much work has been put into that facility," said Martin Harvier, the vice-president of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, who is now also a member of the stadium's executive board. The facility's theme is "Two Teams - Two Tribes - One Home." The Pima and Maricopa tribes comprise the community where the stadium is located.

Harvier said there was plenty of discussion at the local Native administration level a couple of years ago when it was announced a new spring training facility was being sought in the Phoenix area. The thinking was if they were awarded the rights to build the new stadium it would provide a significant boost to the ailing local economy. Plus, another local Native venture, a casino, was going through some difficult times. "You can't put all your eggs in one basket," Harvier said. "Indian gaming is down. So there had to be some diversification take place."

Long story made short - the Native community won the rights to build the new stadium. The entire process has happened relatively quickly. It was late in Mar. of 2009 that the Native community submitted a proposal to build a new facility. Then, four months after that, it was announced it had been awarded the building rights. Construction began in Nov. of '09.

Now completed, the first spring training game will be held on Sat. Feb. 26. Fittingly, the two main tenants, the Diamondbacks and Rockies, will square off in that inaugural contest. A total of 32 other spring training matches will also be staged at the facility, through to the end of March.

Besides the main stadium, the facility also includes 12 practice fields, clubhouses, training facilities and offices for both organizations.

"In my opinion it's the most beautiful spring training facility in the major leagues," said David Dunne, who is the stadium's general manager as well as its manager of spring training operations.

Though a game has yet to be held there, Dunne said he has only being hearing positive feedback from various Diamondbacks' representatives who have visited the stadium. "Guys that have been around the game for 20-25 years have never seen anything like this," Dunne said. "They're blown away by it."

Dunne added that the final product is even more spectacular than he had originally thought it would be. "It came out better than the artists' renderings, which is rare," he said.

Another bonus is the stadium's location, which is nothing short of spectacular. Camelback Mountain, the McDowell Mountains, Four Peaks, Red Mountain and the Superstition Mountains surround the park. "There's a panoramic view of the mountains anywhere you are in the stadium," said Dunne. "It's beautiful. It's breathtaking scenery."

Dunne is confident spectators will soon be discussing the many attributes of the stadium. “Spring training has always had more of relaxed atmosphere. The fans are really going to enjoy this."

Dunne said the 11,000-seat stadium will offer fans numerous up-close viewings of the pro ballplayers. "You can watch the players up close in the bullpen," he said. "And you can watch them in batting practice. Or on the practice fields. It is very unlike any other facility."

Harvier believes both the Arizona and Colorado franchises will help to draw huge crowds to the stadium. "I think the Diamondbacks are going to be a good draw," he said. "It's a local team. And the Rockies have been very successful in recent years."

Salt River Fields at Talking Stick will not just be utilized during spring training. The facility will be available for rentals year round and is expected to play host to various concerts and festivals. It is also expected that numerous youth and adult baseball tournaments will be held there.

The facility can also accommodate other sporting events, including soccer, lacrosse and even basketball games or tournaments.