The Charro Lodge’s VIP experience at Scottsdale Stadium can be summed up with three words: shade, service and socializing.
“It’s just a great atmosphere,” said Dennis Robbins, executive director of the Scottsdale Charros. “People are here not really to watch baseball, but just to socialize and hang out.”
The Scottsdale Charros have been hosting spring training baseball since 1961, with the Charro Lodge opening its doors in 1996.
And following the multi-year renovation to the stadium – renovations that are slated to begin in April – the Charros plan to add onto the VIP experience with both a second-level deck, added seating and permanent shade structures.
“It’s gotten to be where it used to just be people who really enjoyed baseball came to spring training games, but now it’s more of an entertainment, kind of like the golf tournament that comes to town. People don’t go to watch the golf, they go to watch other people and have a good time. And I think this is kind of evolving into that,” Robbins said.
At the San Francisco Giants versus Chicago Cubs game on March 9, the Charro Lounge in right field is a welcomed respite from the crowds, ever-growing vendor lines and heavy foot traffic throughout the stadium.
A handful of waitresses wait on the Lodge patrons – all wearing a lime-green wristband that grants them six complementary beverages – so there’s never a need to get up from one’s reserved seat.
Here, patrons fork up anywhere from $150 to $160 per person to sip and munch on complimentary cocktails and beer and the revolving food options.
What makes the food unique at Charro Lodge is they bring in a different restaurant partner every day.
The vendor at the Giants-Cubs game was The Rooster Tavern, located in northern Scottsdale.
Catering Coordinator Deb Wilson and Chef Rico Lujan served two different sliders – cheeseburger and meatball – along with an au jus dip that gave the meaty sliders a punch of flavor.
“A lot of them come into The Rooster Tavern often and have become friends of mine,” said Owner Jason Horton. “They’re a group of great guys, and I would do anything I can to help the Charros.”
Future partners include The Vig on March 22 and Some Burros on March 23.
In terms of beverages, Charro Lodge has 14 different beers on tap.
But Lodge pass holders are paying for much more than convenient access to food and drinks; They’re paying to skip the lines, get waited on by the attentive servers, sit back in the shade and watch the game from a can’t-beat vantage point.
Accommodating up to 550 people, the Charro Lodge is divided into three seating sections: the Saloon on the lowest level and the Terrace, both of which are mostly shaded, and the fully-shaded Pavilion on the highest level overlooking the Terrace.
The Pavilion is the most popular section and typically sells out before or at the start of spring training season, at the latest.
It’s the only section that must be purchased for the entire season, and passes aren’t cheap. They range from $10,500 to $16,400.
Tickets for the Saloon can be purchased, however, per game at $160, while tickets for the Terrace range from $150 for individual per-game tickets to $10,500 to reserve a table of four for the entire season. Per-person season tickets for the Terrace are $2,250 each.
Passes include general admission into Scottsdale Stadium and entrance into the Charro Lodge.
The prices may be steep, but the money raised via Charro Lodge passes, the Charro’s 50-50 raffle, the advertising sold in the stadium and the Official Spring Training Magazine, which the Scottsdale Charros produces, prints and sells at each game, is invested in local charities and public education in Scottsdale.
“Last year, we sold about $200,000 in tickets,” Robbins said. “Half of that goes to the winners, and $50,000 goes to the Giants’ charities and the other $50,000 goes to the Charros.”
Last year, Scottsdale Charros raised roughly $1 million and gave back to 50 local charities.
Looking ahead, Robbins is hopeful the proposed Scottsdale Stadium renovations, which include adding a second-level deck to the Lodge and a permanent awning to provide shade for Lodge patrons, will increase the number of Lodge pass holders, thereby increasing the amount raised during Spring Training season.
“We’re hoping to add up to another 200 seats, but we’ll grow year by year depending on how the games go,” Robbins said. “We still have to figure out the footprint once it’s built.”
Robbins said the Charros have been erecting temporary shade for the past several years at an expense, so the permanent awning is more than welcomed by both the Charros and Lodge pass holders.
“The shade has been a huge thing,” Robbins said, adding that the Charros have been trying to get shade at the Lodge for 10 years. “This’ll be our third year in a row that we’ve actually had extra shade, and that’s a huge hit.”
Other proposed renovations include rebuilding the Giants clubhouse, renovation of the stadium’s entry plaza and adding 10,000 square feet of multiuse space.
Robbins said the Charros will likely use that space to hold its fundraising functions.
“We hold events throughout the year, one of which is our [Outstanding] Student and Educator Awards banquet where we honor 350 people from the community, a teacher from every school and 10 high school students,” Robbins said. “So we’re hoping to host it here.”
Robbins also invites the community to use the multiuse space once completed and open to the public.
“I think that multipurpose rooms going to be a big hit with the hoteliers and with business people and the community, in general,” he said.
In the meantime, if service, shade and socializing are what you crave at spring training games, call the Scottsdale Charros at 480-990-2977 for Charro Lodge tickets.
—Scottsdale Progress Staff Writer Kristine Cannon