SBJ/March 15 - 21, 2004/SBJ In Depth

Early attempt withered in the desert

The concept of incorporating a sports facility into a real estate development project, rather than building one as a stand-alone venue and hoping other construction will follow, can be traced back more than four decades to an entrepreneur living in the Arizona desert.

W. Winfield Creighton, a developer in Apache Junction, Ariz., proposed in 1961 to build a baseball stadium, hotel and restaurant on the same plot of land.

Houston Colt .45s manager Harry Craft and first baseman Rusty Staub pose at Apache Stadium, a spring training site for the team that turned out to be a mirage.
Owners of the expansion Houston Colt .45's, the predecessor of today's Astros, purchased the undeveloped land 30 miles east of Phoenix, and Creighton's Lost Dutchman's Baseball Association hired PG&R Engineering of Phoenix to build a baseball park.

Built in a matter of months, the 5,000-seat Geronimo Park was christened on Jan. 19, 1962. The name came as a result of a name-the-stadium contest.

The lack of diversions in the town of 200 people meant players were unhappy, and fans were nonexistent. When the Colts headed home for the regular season, Lost Dutchman's withheld the team's guaranteed gate money, presumably to cover the $20,000 the association still owed PG&R.

When the team returned the following spring, the sports village Creighton had envisioned had not developed. On Aug. 28, Colts owners announced that they were leaving Apache Junction in favor of a new $800,000 complex at Cocoa, Fla.

A few years later, after going unused and unmaintained, any salvageable parts of Geronimo Park were given to the local school.

— David Broughton

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