01 March 2011

Salt River Fields: Worth Every Penny (Part II)

After getting jerked around the exterior practice fields, I backtracked my steps towards the home plate area just outside the main stadium. This took a while and I was so annoyed I decided to just go home, bag the game and write a scathing review. But then an angel appeared.

This hardened character was gliding around the Will Call windows, warbling "Tickets!" I asked if she was selling and she said, "Oh, you can have it." I must've looked indigent. Seriously, she's a Rockies' fan, very nice and as luck would have it, sits in the lower level.

First row.


Anyway, this stroke of luck bouyed my attitude and is why you're now reading  Part II of this Salt River Fields review. Let's go inside.

This photo shows local tribeswomen playing a stick and ball game long ago with mesquite and willow branches: 

Maybe a little contrived, but still culturally interesting. Here's some other women of cultural interest: 

 Good lord. There were Scottsdale bimbos everywhere. Even on a Tuesday afternoon. These two were selling $11 bombers. Concession prices, you ask?  

Burger meals are $10. Something called a Value Beer is $5. Hey, does that guy wanna be on Diamondhacks, or what? Something called a "Value Meal" is $10. 

Hot dog and fries. I laughed.  There was a lot of good looking food and drink, actually, but nothing screamed value to me, so I stuck with my trusty liter of water from home. 
I got teased on azcentral for claiming the OF berm was too steep to set down a drink. (They couldnt understand why anyone would "set down" a drink to begin with.) Here, I prove you can set down a drink on the berm. Well, on the light tower base on the berm. Close enough.

We've heard gushing about mountain views and the reality is mixed. Yeah, there are mountains. Four Peaks (in the distance) looks especially nice after the recent snow:

But the closer McDowell range is largely obscured by the massive clubhouse building:
This is from the main concourse level. Lower down, in the majority of seats, you cant see this range at all. The stadium is kind of a closed in bowl and I guess the really nice views are reserved for the party decks. I dont wana sound snotty about it. It's still a nice setting. It's not industrial or anything. But all this talk of "magnificent" and "breathtaking" mountain views is really overdone. 

I hiked from my home in Central Phoenix yesterday to nearby North Mountain Park, and enjoyed snowcapped panoramas that, frankly, left this in the dust. Similarly, the unusual Papago Buttes moonscape looming over Phoenix Muni (the Oakland A's spring base) is more arresting, in my opinion.  The mountains near the Surprise ballpark and the Tucson park these guys just abandoned, both with fighter jets roaring by, have very comparable appeal.  This is pleasant enough, but can the Shangri-la hype already. 

To convey the bowl feel, here's the steps from the main concourse (street level) to the lower concourse: 

Not sure if you can see, but that's three flights. And this isnt even down to field level. This is only (roughly) half way down, just to the lower concourse bisecting the two seating bands. See any mountains down here?

There are some nice amenities. As reported at azsnakepit, there's complimentary sunscreen dispensers: 
This is a great example of something that actually benefits fans. It's genuinely useful. It's not something you're trying to market to people. Because of that, it generates untold good will.

Fans flocked to this like bees to a hive. I dont know if this is an original idea or they stole it from Camelback Ranch like most everything else, but kudos for implementing this simple amenity. When Ken Kendrick walked by, I overheard him favorably remark on today's cloud cover, which tells me they "get" this issue, which MLB generally does not.  Now, the mantra about 85% of fixed seats in the shade is typical Derrick babble - most seats are still in the sun most of the time. But I do think there's more seated shade here than in other Cactus parks I've been to.

Here's another amenity I like:

...just a simple shelf behind the last row of seats. You can put a drink or even a meal here. It encourages standing room, which improves ballpark vibe in my view, and keeps standees a couple feet away from those seated in the last row.

What else? Here's the iconic shot of the tilted, signature light towers...and here's some more Towers:

 That's Kevin Towers, in the white shirt, next to Derrick Hall. I just howl every time I see this.  Look at how long that railing is. You cant see it, but there's expensive outdoor lounge furniture up on that balcony behind them. Look at Derrick being "accessible" to the fan whose hair is two feet below Derrick's shoes.  They look like a couple of fucking Pharoahs up there.

Here's Derrick and Ken "mixing" with the common folk. They sat here for an inning or two and then disappeared. I have a few more pix and could comment ad nauseum on this place, but better wrap it up. 

It's an attractive, comfortable ballpark with obvious attention paid to amenities. Practice facilities wrapped around the main stadium are free and impressive, but walking access between peripheral sectors is surprisingly poor. Some construction is ongoing in outlying areas.  Inside, vendors were solicitous and fun. Concessions were varied and ranged from typical to rather pricey, even for the Cactus League. ( For example, T-shirts and hats were $25-28 in the Team Shop.)

Parking for a weekday game was free and a breeze, just south of the complex at Pavillions Mall, although weekenders present more of a challenge. I'd guess the median age of fans at this Tuesday game pushed sixty, although there's inevitably some Scottsdale eye candy prancing around.

It was fun and of most that was intended. The most winceworthy bit of humor came just before first pitch, when instead of making fans endure a loud video of a snake catching a ball in its fangs, they pipe in a recording of Derrick and Ken talking up their ballpark. They mention Disneyland, of course. Derrick goes on to assert that this is the best ballpark ever and there will never be another like it. You can almost hear strings in the background.

What's so weird is that he's haranguing customers who are already in his ballpark. They've already bought tickets and are assessing the place, bit by bit, generally favorably, and yet he simply cant or wont leave that natural process alone. This isnt a spontaneous speech on Opening Day. They've recorded this corporate homage and pipe it in each day.  It's an incredibly awkward display of hubris. Or insecurity. I'm not exactly sure which. 
But it's a pleasant, clean, new, shiny park. It's nice, if imperfect. A hundred and fifty million bucks should get you a grand, ostentatious miniature stadium - and that's what they have. I parked for free. Brought water from home.  Scored a complimentary ticket from a rocky mountain angel. I didnt open my wallet once while I was there, watching ball, chatting with fans, enjoying the scenery. To this cheapskate, Salt River Fields was worth every penny.

Part I

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Get over yourself...