SBD/February 28, 2011/Facilities

Acclaimed Salt River Fields Spring Training Complex Hosts First Game

The D'Backs and Rockies Saturday opened their new Spring Training ballpark, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, with a game against each other that featured the "pomp and circumstance usually reserved for a regular-season opener," according to Steve Gilbert of MLB.com. The two teams "share the facility, which is the first Spring Training stadium to be built on Native American land." Designed by HKS Sports & Entertainment, the ballpark "features the largest high-definition scoreboard of any Spring Training facility." Fans "have access to the practice fields that surround the stadium, and raised walkways allow them to watch hitters take batting practice in the cages and pitchers throw their bullpen sessions." Rockies Exec VP & COO Greg Feasel: "There's no other facility like that. It's very unique." The ballpark "has 7,000 fixed seats and space for an additional 4,000 fans on the grass berms beyond the outfield fences, though Saturday's attendance was announced at 12,514." D'Backs President & CEO Derrick Hall: "We know that the facility is beautiful, but when you're going to be sold out on your first day, you want everything to go just right. I worry because I want everybody to walk away with a positive experience." Gilbert noted MLB Commissioner Bud Selig was among those in attendance for Saturday's game. There also was a "video tribute" to late Rockies President Keli McGregor. The facility includes the Keli McGregor Reflective Path, which "winds its way around the complex" (MLB.com, 2/26).

JEWEL IN THE DESERT: In Denver, Jim Armstrong wrote Salt River Fields at Talking Stick "isn't just a pretty face with a preposition," and it "isn't just a state-of-the-art baseball facility, either." Armstrong: "The Rockies have joined the 21st century, thanks to a seemingly bottomless vault of cash fueled by the casino at the Talking Stick Resort." The Maricopa and Pima tribes spent approximately $130-170M on the facility, and the "sheer opulence and attention to detail are almost comical" (DENVER POST, 2/27). SI.com's Tom Verducci wrote the facility "redefines state of the art by leaps and bounds." Verducci: "Nothing else comes close to Salt River Fields when it comes to design, functionality, resources, luxuries and sheer size" (SI.com, 2/25). YAHOO SPORTS' David Brown wrote Salt River Fields "appears to be worth every bit of the $130 million it cost to build." It "already has been referred to as the 'Ninth Wonder of the World,' a 'modern marvel' and the 'Versailles of spring training facilities.'" D'Backs P Clay Zavada: "This place is frickin' unreal. It's better than a lot of big league places, you know? The quality of the playing field's even pretty nice. This has everything. They give you everything here" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/27). In Phoenix, Scott Bordow wrote under the header, "Salt River Fields Lives Up To Billing" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 2/27).
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