With the first Spring Training game just 39 days away, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies hosted a behind the scenes tour of their new Spring Training facility Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.
When ground broke in November 2009 it was hard to imagine what the complex would look like. Now just 14 months later the transformation is incredible. Most of the heavy earth moving equipment has disappeared and all that remains is a few minor details and some cleanup.
Before entering the stadium we were greeted by friendly staff who gave each of us a hardhat, safety glasses, a neon vest, and cloth booties. I have to admit, I was disappointed that the hard hats were not Sedona Red and was even more depressed to learn that we had to turn in that cool vest. I was hoping I could take it and wear it to the first Spring Training game on February 26th as a badge of honor.
The entrance to the stadium is incredible. As you walk across the bridge towards the gates there is a water feature to the left that runs below and to an adjoining lake to the right. The other cool thing about the entrance is that you are able to look out on the practice fields and batting cages and catch a glimpse of your favorite player warming up.
The left side of the complex is the Arizona Diamondbacks side while the right is the Colorado Rockies. Besides the stadium that seats just over 11,000 fans (7,000 fixed seats and another 4,000 lawn seats), the complex also includes 12 practice fields (six each for the Diamondbacks and Rockies).
On the Diamondbacks side there is one field that has the exact dimensions as Salt River Fields at Talking Stick stadium while another has the exact field dimensions of Chase Field. This will allow players to learn the nuances of each field without having to actually be at that stadium. That should pay dividends both in Spring Training and also during rehab assignments or instructional league.
Entering the front gates the first thing you will notice is the amazing sight lines. It is almost breathtaking to see the field emerge as you walk in. Like at Chase Field, the Diamondbacks dugout will be on the third base side while the Rockies dugout will be on the first base side.
I sat behind home plate and waited for the event to begin. I tried to remember what this looked like during the groundbreaking ceremony. It was hard to imagine what we saw in front of us did not exist just a year prior.
The event began at 1 PM and the seats behind the plate were in the shade. Mo Stein from the architecture firm HKS explained that the stadium was designed so that 80 percent of the seats would be in the shade by game time taking into account the location of the sun during February and March.
The scoreboard beyond left field was the first thing to catch your eye. It is hard to miss at 24 feet by 48 feet. The board will look familiar to Diamondbacks fans as it is similar to the one at Chase Field and can be controlled similarly. It is the largest LED screen in all of MLB Spring Training.
Besides the main board there are also two LED ribbon boards similar to what you see at Chase Field. The ribbon boards are positioned so that those in the lawn seats will be able to see the information clearly.
Management for the Diamondbacks and Rockies took turns addressing the media expressing gratitude for the work that had gone into the stadium. As of January there have been 2 million man-hours of work done on the facility. Each day 650 people are on site working and at its peak there were 1,250 people there. The hard work clearly paid off, the facility was incredible.
From the main concourse we went to the party deck. There are three party decks at the stadium. On the left field side is the Miller Light deck while the right field side houses the Coors Cold Zone. The third deck is the Pepsi Party deck. For $19 fans can mingle among the three decks, which will not only have seats and patio furniture but also food and beverage.
Beyond the seats in right field currently sits a large expanse of concrete. This pad is in the process of being transformed into the Cold Stone Creamery Kids area. It will have a whiffle ball field complete with artificial turf and have other areas where kids can go to play while their parents watch the game.
Everywhere you look the Rockies and Diamondbacks have taken fan experience into consideration. In tomorrow’s blog post we will move beyond the stadium and delve into the other aspects of Salt River Fields at Talking Stick including the team clubhouses and overall fan experience.