01 March 2011

Salt River Fields: Worth Every Penny (Part I)

Here's my photo essay on today's excursion to Salt River Fields. You can click on the photos to enlarge. I guess we'll start with this:

Just a parking lot, at the Pavillions Mall, south and adjacent to Salt River Fields. It's free, with easy access, as are all the other mall lots. Why bother paying $5 for "on site" parking across the street?

I entered the 140 acre facility on foot, from the south, which is the Rockies' entrance. Here's their batting cages. Ten covered bays. It's enormous:

Their public walkway is engraved with cute affirmations:


One for each month. Lots of players on either side of the elevated walkway, engaged in various drills on the pristine fields below. Remember, all this is free. Eventually the walkway ends at the stadium's right field gate, where you have to present your game ticket to proceed.  I didnt have a ticket yet and didnt want to buy one until I experienced the Dbacks' side of the exterior practice fields.

This is where things got weird. It wasnt at all clear how to do that, but I found a skinny, underutilized walkway, off to the left, that traced the backside of the stadium:

Not terribly appealing or promising looking. No signs to guide you. It may be hard to see here, but this exhaust vent was emitting noxious "steam" onto the walkway:

This is how you get from the Rockies practice fields to the Dbacks side. Or at least this is how that oddyssey began. I could peek thru the fence to see stadium delights here and there:

Here's the Dbacks complex overlooking left field. At first glance, it reminded me of an attractive airport terminal. The thing is huge. Almost as huge as the edifice that made Salt River Fields possible:

That's Talking Stick Resort and Casino, right across the street and visibly looming over the baseball facility. I'm still outside the ballpark here, searching for Diamondbacks. I eventually spot one and am genuinely thrilled:

Roland Hemond, the first Dback Hall of Famer (unless you count Roberto Alomar, which you shouldnt), elected just last week as the first recipient of The Buck O'Neil Award (after O'Neil himself). I wanted to introduce myself and offer congratulations, but Hemond was on an extended call and I didnt want to loiter around him like some kind of loser. So I hiked further until I finally came to the Diamondbacks walkway: 

The Dbacks dont put affirmations on their walkway. They inscribe accomplishments, most of which happened before 2004. Here they celebrate their 25th million paying fan, from 2007. And here, with nothing recent to crow about on the field, they boast of $25M in cumulative charitable donations:

 Both accomplishments are over the life of the franchise, not something that magically happened out of the blue (or Sedona Red), in 2007 or 2010. The twin acheivements suggest the franchise has donated less than a dollar of every ticket sold to charitable causes. Considering ticket revenue is a fairly small component of overall earnings (about 25%), the charitable outlay per revenue dollar is even less - about 25 cents on a mean ticket average exceeding $20 dollars.

It makes me wonder what other teams, like the Rockies, donate to charity. Of course, it's harder to tell with them,  since they dont advertise their largesse in sandblasted cement. End rant. 

Here's some pitchers retrieving balls after BP. Jarrod Parker in the middle, Clay Zavada on the right. I gotta say, there was a lot less to look at on the Diamondbacks side. A lot less activity, fewer players doing stuff out in the open. In the upper right hand corner of the above photo, you might faintly make out some red uniforms. That's where most of the action was and where I headed next.

Sort of. I walked due west, away from that activity to the far end of the Diamondbacks walkway, so I could cut behind these batting cages en route to the far field. No such luck. There's sunglass-wearing Security punks all over the place telling you you have to walk around the complex perimeter to approach this hallowed practice ground. They're not really punks. You can tell the nice ones hate their duties, having to enforce officious edicts that truly inconvenience innocuous fans. Here's some metal barriers I eventually hopped on my way out of this beaureacratic maze:
The guard in the white shirt (background)  saw me but didnt say anything. I purposely didnt make eye contact with him, and just walked where it made sense to me. What's he gonna do. Tackle me?

What's there to see when you finally get to the Dbacks' fields? Well, this mostly:

  Their side is full of opaque screens. I felt like I was touring a NORAD facility. It was a joke, especially in light of Derrick Hall's talking points on how fan friendly and accessible this is.  Here's some unidentified guys, stretching, like fifty yards away from the unpaved fan walkway:

Here's some more unidentified guys, hiding from fans in the cavernous weight room:

Pretty exciting, huh? That's it. That's all I saw. You can tell from the back of the "Salt River Fields" sign, up top, that I'm almost directly behind center field at this point. I started walking toward the direction of the fans' CF ballpark entrance, when another one of these jackass guards started spitting sunflower seeds and insisting I backtrack my elongated journey around the entire complex perimeter. I was fuming at this point. And I'm not just saying that because this is Diamondhacks. I've been in some historic spring training parking snafus, but I've honestly never been subject to a more self-important, heavily guarded, us vs them ST environment.

Even from the outside, I could easily tell this was a new, clean, expensive, shiny facility (we'll get to that in Part II), but the clarity and ease of access from one side of the facility to the other is a disaster - especially on the Diamondbacks' side. It's pretty, but inconvenient, confusing and aggressively  officious.  The antithesis of what's been advertised.

Part II

1 comment:

JIM said...

Nice article and good pictures. Thank you for this.