Just over a year ago I had the opportunity to attend the groundbreaking ceremony at the Talking Stick golf course in Scottsdale where the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies announced their new Spring Training facility.
At the time we stood among mounds of dirt and run-down buildings as team officials stood and described the future and what it would be like to train in the Phoenix valley. I remember looking around trying to imagine the finished product.
I looked at architectural drawings and landscaping plans and excitedly thought about the day not far in the future when Spring Training would begin in a brand new stadium. For the next year I would make a pilgrimage to the construction site taking pictures from behind locked fences.
The construction site changed over time. Mounds of dirt were moved. Large construction vehicles bellowed smoke as the landscape changed from the gentle rolling mounds of a golf course to something that would house nearly 200 players and coaches during the Cactus League.
Now just a year and two weeks removed from that first shovel of dirt was turned over there stands the structure of a baseball stadium and several practice fields. Construction has moved forward to the point where the Diamondbacks held a Select-a-Seat event for Season Ticket Holders where they would be given an opportunity to purchase season tickets to the Cactus League.
This was both a source of excitement and contention within my family. On the one hand it’s an opportunity for more baseball. On the other hand it’s an opportunity for more baseball. According to my kids, it’s bad enough that they have to endure 81 home games without adding another 17 to the schedule. I really need to work on their priorities; they are definitely out of whack.
My appointment for the Select-a-Seat event was scheduled for 3 PM. I paced the floor all morning staring at the clock willing it to move faster. After what seemed like an eternity it was finally time to go to Scottsdale.
As I drove I tried to imagine making this trip daily in late February and March with the windows down and the warm spring afternoon sun shining brightly. The desert flowers blooming as Spring Training begins signaling the start of another baseball season.
Arriving at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, we were ushered into the construction site. The venue is still very much a construction site. Large machinery continued working as we weaved around the dirt roads to a newly paved parking lot at the partially completed stadium.
After a brief welcoming speech we were given instructions. We had 15 minutes to look at seat locations. At the end of that time we would make a decision on seats. If two people were interested in the same seats, the one with the lower priority number would take precedence.
The gates were opened and the group of fans made their way into the stadium. It was our first glimpse of what the stadium would be like when it opens next February.
My first impression was how close the seats looked in regards to the playing field. It felt as though you were right on top of the action. The turf had already been laid and the sprinkler system was watering the infield and outfield grass.
Seats were in the process of being installed but were still in disarray. We were warned not to try and sit in the seats as many of them had not been bolted in quite yet. Seats with tape on them represented those that were not available.
Many of the better seats along the wall and dugout had already been taken. There were four seats in Section 119 Row 7 above the Diamondbacks dugout. Row 7 is actually the third row above the dugout.
After surveying the area around me I decided these were going to be perfect. Directly in line with third base and just above the entrance where the players enter and leave the field. I stood there lost in the visions of what it will be like on Friday February 26th when the Diamondbacks take the field against the Colorado Rockies.
The stadium has 7,000 seats plus an additional 4,000 lawn seats in left and right field. There are suites and party areas on the second deck along with press and broadcasting booths. On the first base side in the second deck will be a Coors beer garden while the third base side will have a Miller Beer garden. The stadium is built so that by mid-afternoon 80 percent of the seats will be shaded from the Arizona sun that can get hot towards the end of Spring Training.
Beyond the left field wall is the Diamondbacks clubhouse while the Rockies clubhouse is beyond the right field wall. Each clubhouse is approximately 85,000 square feet, the size of a small Wal-Mart.
While the construction is quickly moving there is still a tremendous amount of work remaining for the complex to be ready for occupants in mid-February. Hopefully things will go as planned, I can hardly wait.