Top 5 Cactus League
Ballparks in Arizona
By Rene Gomez
Modern Times Magazine
March 15, 2016 — Spring is in the air and that means the Cactus League will bring exhibition baseball to fans across the Valley. Locals and tourists come from all over to take in the games and see bask in the glow of the burgeoning MLB season.
In order to help you make the most of the 2016 Spring Training Experience, we took a look at the 10 Cactus League ballparks to find out which ones are most worth your time and hard-earned money. To separate the best from the rest, we examined the stadiums themselves along with surrounding activities and amenities, like restaurants, bars and shopping centers among other things.
Out of the 10 stadiums evaluated, five made our list of best Cactus League ballparks.
Image of Hohokam Stadium by 2candle and used under a Creative Commons license.
No. 5 Hohokam Stadium
Hohokam is one of the oldest sites (1977) for spring training baseball games in Arizona, but it did undergo a complete rebuild in 1996 and reopening in 1997. The Oakland Athletics call Hohokam their spring home, and they were the original tenants upon the original park’s opening. When the Chicago Cubs moved to Arizona, they took over the lease and quickly became one of the most popular, if not the most popular, Cactus League attraction.
Oakland has since returned to Hohokam after the Cubs left the park for greener pastures, and the fans have followed as the A’s essentially upgraded from dilapitated Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
Inside the park, Hohokam offers very good options for concessions as one can find Ike’s Sandwiches—which is a bay area staple—and the Mustache Pretzel food truck. The A’s are the only team that will allow the fans to shag fly balls during batting practice, so the experience is incomparable to any other in town. Hohokam is also the most economical of the stadiums on this list—which is always a welcome attribute—as lawn seats are only $10, and the most expensive ticket is $35 for infield box gold seats. The location is not ideal, but there is freeway access using Loop 202 to get to other parts of the valley for post-game entertainment. Fans can also stay relatively close by heading to downtown Mesa’s various restaurants and bars or travel a little bit more to find Mesa Riverview’s entertainment district, which has a movie theater and shopping in addition to a variety of restaurants and bars. Hohokam is located at 1235 North Center St., Mesa.
Image of Tempe Diablo Stadium by Dave Nakayama and used under a Creative Commons license.
No. 4 Tempe Diablo Stadium
Diablo Stadium was built in 1969, making it the oldest Cactus League stadium, but it is quite possibly among the most charming as well as it has the second smallest capacity of the 10 ballparks. The City of Tempe also spent $20 million in renovations in 2005 to improve the facility, so it is better condition than fans might expect. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim call this stadium their spring home, and the Angels have a strong following, proven by the team’s ability to set attendance records for the past three years at the park. The Angels most popular concession food is the nachos, meaning every fan should consider buying them. Plus, they come in an Angels’ helmet so fans get to take a souvenir home to commemorate the visit. Lawn seats will cost $15 and the most expensive ticket a fan can buy is the home plate V.I.P. seat for $95. The nearby attractions and freeway access give the stadium a boost to its appeal as the I-10 and US 60 make visiting the stadium easy for fans from all over the Valley. If fans decide to stay a little closer, Arizona Mills and downtown Tempe’s Mill Avenue provide fun after the game. Diablo Stadium is located at 2200 W. Alameda Drive, Tempe.
Image of Scottsdale Stadium by Cygnusloop99 and used under a Creative Commons license.
No. 3 Scottsdale Stadium
This park was built in 1992 (on the site of the original Scottsdale Stadium that was built in 1956) and renovated in 2005, and the San Francisco Giants call the venue home during the spring. The Giants have a strong fan following, and the team has won several world titles in the past few years, so fans can expect a quality product on the field game in and game out.
The stadium’s garlic fries are a tasty snack from concessions to fight hunger while waiting to check out the local restaurants and bars, and they are the signature food item. The stadium’s ticket prices will vary depending on the opponent, but they range from $10 lawn seats to $77 “Dynamic” spring tickets. The fact that the stadium has prime location makes this one the must-see venues for spring baseball. Minutes away is Old Town Scottsdale, and fans can explore a little more by checking out what else the city has to offer for entertainment from Fashion Square Mall to Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.
Nearby freeway access and local amenities also give fans the chance to enjoy more grown-up fun at Talking Stick Resort or the smaller Casino Arizona off Loop 101. Scottsdale Stadium is located at 7408 East Osborn Road, Scottsdale.
Image of Salt River Fields at Talking Stick by DruBloomfield and used under a Creative Commons license.
No. 2 Salt River Fields at Talking Stick
The Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies call this state-of-the-art facility their spring home, and there is no argument from locals that its popularity is not just because the Diamondbacks play here, but also because it is relatively new (built 2011) and full of attractions.
Before making postgame plans, enjoy stadium amenities such as the Salty Señorita for margaritas and Mexican food. For a cold, sweet treat, fans flock to the Cold Stone Creamery concession stand for a concoction that satisfies and cools on those warm spring days. Salt River Fields rivals Hohokam as the best value for a ticket as $11 lawn seats are economical as well as the $37 infield box seats—the highest price for a ticket in the stadium.
The ballpark is not too far from Scottsdale’s Old Town and is just off the Loop 101 freeway, which makes travelling a breeze. Talking Stick Resort is the closest amusement and is just minutes away right across the freeway. The casino resort offers a variety of dining options and nightlife entertainment, so it is recommended to make a visit to this stadium an all-day event. The stadium is located at 7555 N. Pima Road, Scottsdale.
Image of Sloan Park by Cactus League.
No. 1 Sloan Park
The Cubs moved from Hohokam to the Cactus League’s newest spring venue in 2014, and this ballpark is not the best just because it is the newest but also because it hosts the Valley’s most popular non-hometown team. The Cubs are the favorites to win the World Series, and they have been the most popular spring training team for decades dating back to Harry Caray and beyond.
Many Illinois residents also own property in Arizona and they travel specifically for Cactus League baseball to see their beloved Cubs. Sloan Park may just be the future of how spring training facilities will be made since it was made to be more than just a baseball attraction. Future building plans include a smaller replica of Wrigley Field’s surrounding shops and eateries, but as of now children can enjoy the mini Wrigley Field inside the park.
Sloan Park arguably has the best concessions options as its “Taste of Chicago” stands feature Chicago culinary staples such as Italian beef sandwiches, Italian-style hot dogs and (of course) pizza. Healthy options are also available as one could purchase salads, fruit and yogurt or a veggie and dip platter to nosh on. The Sheraton is within walking distance and has a lovely lounge inside for visitors and hotel guests for convenience after the game. Also within walking distance is Mesa Riverview’s selection of entertainment, and a couple minutes west is Tempe Marketplace.
If heading out of Mesa is your plans, then Loop 202 and 101 are nearby. Tickets range from $15 lawn seats to $45 infield box seats. Sloan Park is located at 2330 W. Rio Salado Pkwy., Mesa.
For more information visit www.cactusleague.com to find links to any team’s webpage.
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