While downtown Scottsdale is made up of quaint shops, a robust gallery district and a vivid nightlife scene many say the true straw that stirs that economic cocktail has always been Scottsdale Stadium.
During February and March there is no better place to be on planet Earth for baseball fans than Scottsdale Stadium as thousands flock, millions are spent and downtown Scottsdale soaks it all in — from retail purchases to dinner and libation experiences.
But downtown Scottsdale is in decline, city officials say, as other corners of the municipality become commerce hubs leaving a new initiative before local leaders: where does downtown Scottsdale fit in the 21st Century?
As times change, so do the desires of municipal partners as Scottsdale City Council Tuesday, Sept. 12 voted to allow up to $900,000 from the stadium facilities capital improvement fund to reconstruct portions of Scottsdale Stadium including:
- Reconstruction of the stadium’s outfield parking lot;
- Expansion of the east practice fields;
- Modifications to the existing half-diamond and bullpen; and
- The addition of an agility field with a half-diamond.
City officials say the Sept. 12 changes approved at Scottsdale Stadium, 7408 E. Osborn Road, is the first step in the ongoing master plan process under way at City Hall.
One member of Scottsdale City Council says proposals to update Scottsdale Stadium have long been in the planning stages and have long been pursued by the San Francisco Giants of Major League Baseball, who call the venue home during Spring Training.
“The Scottsdale Stadium master planning process is progressing, and as part of that we are having substantial discussions with the San Francisco Giants about future long-term team needs at the stadium,” said Scottsdale Public Affairs Manager Kelly Corsette in a Sept. 1 statement to the Independent.
“There are some creative ideas bubbling up from these discussions, but before we take them any further, we are exploring them in greater detail so that we know how practical they are, and how much they might cost.”
Mr. Corsette says city officials are weighing improvements that can help provide more annual events at Scottsdale Stadium.
“As we consider future improvements at the stadium, we are placing an emphasis on what will be useful year-round, so that money we spend will benefit the Giants and Spring Training, but also benefit the city by making the stadium more useful as a general event and rental facility,” he explained.
Mr. Corsette acknowledges the Sept. 12 action as a portion of an update to Scottsdale Stadium but says the pending master plan update will be made public later this fall and negotiations between the Giants and the city of Phoenix area, as well regarding Spring Training activities.
“We are continuing discussions with the Giants and the city of Phoenix about relocating the Giants year-round player development activity from Indian School Park in Scottsdale to an existing player development facility, on the Phoenix-Scottsdale border in Papago Park,” he said of the likely outcome.
A community partnership
The Scottsdale Charros, the city of Scottsdale and the San Francisco Giants partner each year to bring Major League Baseball to Scottsdale Stadium.
“Since the 1950s Scottsdale has hosted spring training baseball games,” said Scottsdale Charros Executive Director Dennis Robbins.
“The Scottsdale Baseball Club built a field and they hosted spring baseball games to promote business and tourism in the newly created town of Scottsdale. In 1961 the field was donated to the city of Scottsdale and the Scottsdale Charros were created to host and manage Spring Training Baseball games.”
For 56 years the Scottsdale Charros have been in constant pursuit of improving the lives of Scottsdale residents while preserving the community’s ties to its western heritage.
“The Scottsdale Charros and the city of Scottsdale have hosted five major league baseball teams since 1961,” Mr. Robbins explains. “The San Francisco Giants play their spring training games in Scottsdale. The Charros lease Scottsdale Stadium from the city of Scottsdale and then sub-lease the stadium to the San Francisco Giants. The Charros provide management staff, insurance, police and fire services and security during spring training games. The San Francisco Giants train at Scottsdale Stadium and Indian School Park. In addition, the Giants are responsible for tickets and concessions during the spring training season.”
For the last 50 years, the Scottsdale Charros have used Major League Baseball as a way to drive dollars back into the community — both through charity efforts and the virtue of brining hundreds of thousands to downtown Scottsdale every year.
“The Charros produce and sell the baseball magazine at each game,” Mr. Robbins says of the fundraising efforts. “In addition, the Charros provide advertising opportunities throughout the stadium and in the Charro Lodge. The Charro Lodge is a VIP section in right field where food, drink and stadium tickets are included so that our baseball fans have a truly unique baseball experience.”
In addition, the Charros host a youth event centered around baseball every year at Scottsdale Stadium.
“The Charros also host a Youth Luncheon and Clinic each year,” Mr. Robbins said.
“We invite 300 students from the Scottsdale Unified School District to enjoy a day at the ballpark. Former Major League baseball players are on hand to run the students through the drills that a MLB player would experience. The Charros also provide a lunch and goodie bag for each student.”
To date the Scottsdale Charros have provided nearly $15 million in nonprofit grants and local student scholarships largely driven from community donations made possible through activities at Scottsdale Stadium.
An economic engine
Scottsdale Councilwoman Virginia Korte points out the Cactus League is a primary economic drive in the Valley of the Sun — and the city of Scottsdale is no exception.
“In Scottsdale alone, our Giants stadium is one of the stadiums that attracts more fans than most other fields and stadiums in the Valley,” she said in a Sept. 12 phone interview. “Its economic impact to our downtown businesses is unquestionable.”
Councilwoman Korte says spring baseball time is cherished by both visitor and proprietor as restaurants are full, patrons are perusing downtown shops and art galleries are selling art.
“It’s the greatest time for our downtown as far as tourism and the volume of business it brings,” she said. “We have a downtown stadium that is the envy of other places because of its placement.”
Councilwoman Korte says it’s time for Scottsdale Stadium to change with the times.
“I know that the Giants are looking for some better amenities for their players. And, I know they are looking for a better experience for their fans,” she said. “They are looking at bleachers, maybe we need to look at the grassy area and we need to update our digital scoreboard.”
Councilwoman Korte says with the city’s new focus to help its downtown market leaders at City Hall are all-ears.
“They (the Giants organization) have, for many years, talked about improving their practice fields,” she said. “We are listening and we certainly want to accommodate them, the Charros, our residents and our fans so our Cactus League experience is the best of the best.”
Mr. Robbins says having Scottsdale Stadium in downtown makes a difference.
“It is an economic engine that provides jobs, tourist and residential amenities, contributes to the social fabric of Scottsdale and allows the Charros to raise much-needed funds to give back to our community,” he said.
“The ability to host Spring Training at Scottsdale Stadium has allowed the Scottsdale Charros to give back to our Scottsdale community nearly $15 million dollars to local charities and educational programs. The mission of the Scottsdale Charros would not be realized without our ability to host Spring Training Baseball at Scottsdale Stadium.”
Although it is brick and mortar, Mr. Robbins contends Scottsdale Stadium is a testament to not only what it means to be apart of Scottsdale, but America itself.
“Since the 1950’s Scottsdale Stadium has been synonymous with Spring Training baseball,” he said.
“Scottsdale Stadium is a very special place for local residents each and every March. It means green grass, warmer temperatures, leaving work early, grabbing a hot dog with your family during the relaxed atmosphere of spring baseball. No other Valley city has a spring training facility in their downtown.”
–By Terrance Thornton