Spring Training Media Preview Continued

Yesterday we began coverage of the media preview of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies new Spring Training facility Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. In the first part of the tour we focused on the stadium itself and the amenities that are part of the fan experience.

Today we will pick up the tour with the Colorado Rockies clubhouse and offices followed by the Diamondbacks equivalent. These are areas usually off-limits to the casual fan so I was very excited to be able to see the facilities and get a glimpse into what it might be like for the players.

From the main concourse of the stadium, the Colorado Rockies offices are beyond right field while the Arizona Diamondbacks facilities are beyond the left field wall. The buildings themselves almost flow into the surroundings and at first glance seem like small one-story buildings.

Those looks are deceiving as the building is two stories and fairly spacious. To give you an idea of how large these buildings are, the square footage is approximately the same as a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market store. You would never mistake these buildings for a Wal-Mart. Instead they are state-of-the-art buildings with all the amenities you could ever want.

As we entered the building we were required to put plastic booties over our work boots in order to help protect the new flooring that had just been laid. On the top floor of the Rockies building are offices for executives and front office personnel. On the field side of the building will be a Rockies team shop carrying all kinds of merchandise for Colorado.

One of the most dramatic things you will notice in the building is the wall next to the stairway leading to the first floor. What looks like it was carved into the wall is a purple-lighted sculpture of the Rocky Mountains. It is an amazing display and one I hoped the Diamondbacks would copy on their side.

At the bottom of the stairs is the lobby that will greet visitors to the complex. Behind the desk is a purple wall with a large silver CR logo for the team. The wood surrounding the area has a purple hue to it. It was explained that all the wood came from the Rocky Mountain region and was harvested from beetle-infested forests. I guess that is Rockies way of saying they are green since no new trees were killed for the making of the building.

Off from the lobby is a large theater that will seat 110-120 people. The plan is to use this video room for large groups of players as a coaching tool. Personally I’d love to see it used to show season highlights to fans and visitors but I’m not sure how often Colorado fans would be in Scottsdale to use it.

Beyond the lobby are hallways that lead to various clubhouses and common dining areas. The Rockies decided they did not want a separation between major league and minor league areas. Instead they wanted the players and coaches to intermingle.

That philosophy carries on with the weight room. There is one single weight room, which was appropriately named the Kelly McGregor weight room as a tribute to the late Rockies president who unexpectedly passed away last April.

The clubhouse is massive and spacious. The purple beetle wood is consistent throughout the complex and gives you a sense of continuity. The ceiling of the Rockies clubhouse has a giant CR logo and is purple. For the first time in my life I was actually grateful for the Diamondbacks color change. That much purple made me feel like I had been swallowed by Barney the dinosaur. It was cool but really a lot.

One interesting factoid they shared was how they wanted to pay tribute to the Indian community. On the Video Room sign they had the English name, braille (don’t ask me why there is a braille label on the video room sign I am still trying to figure that one out). They also have the Maricopa Indian name and the Pima Indian name.

It was very cool. Our guide said they had to bring in the tribal elders to get the correct names. The language is becoming a dying art and many of the tribal members are not teaching their children the language.

Upon leaving the Rockies facilities we walked around the concourse in the outfield. I was amazed at how many lawn seats there actually were. While the teams are saying there is seating for 4,000 I am betting you could get more than that on the lawn comfortably.

There is a main gate beyond center field where many of the fans will enter the ballpark. Beyond this entry is the largest of the parking lots. All told there are seven parking lots at the facility with room for 3,000 cars.

Just inside the center field gate is a shared team shop that will have Rockies and Diamondbacks merchandise for sale year round. Looking through the windows I have already decided this is where I will be doing the majority of my Christmas shopping next year.

We entered the Arizona Diamondbacks building and while it is similar to that of the Rockies the differences were immediately clear. Instead of the purple hue beetle wood the Diamondbacks chose salvaged red barn wood. I didn’t have my Diamondbacks hat on to match the color but it looked like Sedona Red to me.

The office floor of the Diamondbacks building has a wrap around deck. One side of the building the deck will overlook the stadium and the game going on. The other side of the deck overlooks the practice and agility fields. I’ll give credit to Diamondbacks CEO Derrick Hall. He scored an office that overlooks the stadium while owner Ken Kendrick’s office looks out on the practice fields.

One of the telling signs of the Diamondbacks office floor was the large organizational values sign that acts as a reminder of what the Diamondbacks are all about. It is impossible to miss this I applaud the Diamondbacks for putting this there. I have seen a similar display in the main hallway of the office wing of Chase Field which shows how important these values are.

Going downstairs in the Diamondbacks building there is no lighted wall in team colors like Colorado’s. Instead there is a giant wall of natural stone that rises over 20 feet. If I had not seen the Rockie’s wall I would have been impressed but the purple mountain was just that cool.

While the Rockies chose to have major league and minor league players and coaches intermingle, the Diamondbacks took the approach of separating the two groups. Arizona has large clubhouses for Triple-A, Double-A, Single-A, and Short Season-A. All of these clubhouses were spacious and could accommodate a large number of players.

There is a minor league dining area and kitchen that looked more like a set on the Food Network. Across the hall was the minor league weight room and fitness center. The outside wall of the weight room rolled up like a garage door allowing the players free movement inside to outside where the space connected to the agility fields.

The major league clubhouse was enormous and from the moment you entered it felt comfortable. There were lockers on every wall with a hint of Sedona Red at the top. The ceiling included a large lighted “A” logo in the center, just in case you had any doubt where you were.

It was explained that the clubhouse was situated this way to facility large team meetings, which manager Kirk Gibson is accustomed to having with his players. Gibson along with GM Kevin Towers both spoke of the importance of a good clubhouse both from a comfort perspective and an attitude point of view. It was clear that Gibson is a lot more serious about this than either AJ Hinch or to a certain respect Bob Melvin was before him.

Above the major league weight room and training areas is another patio that the Diamondbacks will use to host guests and events. The patio overlooks the major league practice fields, batting cages, and pitching mounds.

Derrick Hall explained another aspect of this patio. There is a pathway from the practice areas up a flight of stairs to an area adjacent to the patio where Diamondbacks players will go twice daily to sign autographs for the fans. The autograph area is outside of the stadium meaning fans do not have to have a game ticket to get an autograph.

The front entryway to the stadium also allows fans an opportunity to stop on the bridge and look down on the batting cages and pitching mounds to watch the players work out on the major league fields.

As I stood and gazed out at the complex I was impressed at how fan friendly it was. In other venues much of the practice fields are behind chain link fences, which separate the fans from the players. At Salt River Fields at Talking Stick there are pathways that meander through the property allowing fans to walk alongside the players to the various baseball diamonds.

I can see the fans becoming much closer to the team both physically and emotionally since they have an opportunity to watch them go about their work. This complex just makes you feel like you are a part of the team.

As fans personally experience this new Spring Training complex they too will grow to love it. The Rockies and the Diamondbacks set about to create the ultimate fan experience and from what I saw during the tour they hit the ball out of the ballpark.



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