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Ranking the Ballparks of the Cactus League

By Jason Bartel -- April 17, 2014 10:20 PM EDT

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Every March, baseball fans descend upon the Valley of the Sun for MLB Spring Training. While on the surface it seems like the experiences should all be similar, they most certainly are not. From the greatness of Salt River Fields (named the 22nd best stadium experience in the U.S. and Canada last year by Stadium Journey), to the ultra-crowded Maryvale Baseball Park, the Cactus League offers all kinds of experiences for every baseball fan.

With half of MLB within 45 minutes of each other for a month, the Cactus League is always a good time. Here’s how we rank the different experiences, keeping in mind that several teams share stadiums and have essentially the same game day staff and amenities.

  1. Salt River Fields at Talking Stick - Home of the Colorado Rockies Spring Training

    The Colorado Rockies have called Salt River Fields at Talking Stick their Spring Training home since 2011. They share the facility with the Arizona Diamondbacks. When the Chicago White Sox moved from Tucson Electric Park (now Kino Stadium) to Camelback Ranch in 2009, it left the Diamondbacks and Rockies as the only teams remaining in Tucson. This forced the D-Backs and Rockies to start looking for new homes, and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community gave them the best deal with a 20-year lease. The Rockies played their final season in Tucson in 2010 at Hi Corbett Field, which has now been taken over by the University of Arizona.

  2. Salt River Fields at Talking Stick - Home of the Arizona Diamondbacks Spring Training

    Salt River Fields is the best Cactus League facility, as well as the only one built on a Native American Reservation. The capacity for the stadium is 12,800, and it has been sold out nearly every day over its history. The complex boasts 12 full-size practice fields (six for each team), state-of-the-art clubhouses and workout facilities for the teams, and is also one of the most fan-friendly stadiums in the Cactus League. In addition, it plays home to the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League, the AZL Diamondbacks, and many events throughout the year.

  3. Camelback Ranch - Home of the Chicago White Sox Spring Training

    The Chicago White Sox moved their Spring Training from Tucson to Glendale in 2009 when Camelback Ranch opened its doors. They share this desert oasis with the LA Dodgers every March. The stadium has 10,300 seats as well as room for approximately 3,000 fans in the outfield lawn area. But the stadium is just one part of the entire facility. Spanning 141 acres, Camelback Ranch is the largest complex in the Cactus League.

  4. Peoria Sports Complex - Home of the San Diego Padres Spring Training

    The San Diego Padres have been holding Spring Training at Peoria Sports Complex for over 20 years. They have shared the facility with the Seattle Mariners every February and March since the complex was built in 1994. It was the very first complex to be shared by two Major League teams. That is now the norm in the Cactus League, with only a few clubs having their own facilities. Both the Padres and Mariners are leased to stay in Peoria through 2034.

  5. Peoria Sports Complex - Home of the Seattle Mariners Spring Training

    In addition to spring training, the Mariners’ rookie league team, the AZL Mariners, play home games at Peoria Sports Complex in the summer. The Peoria Javelinas of the Arizona Fall League use it in October and November. The stadium seats 11,000 for baseball. Renovations for the stadium are coming in the next year.

  6. Camelback Ranch - Home of the Los Angeles Dodgers Spring Training

    Located in Glendale, it is an absolutely amazing place to hang out for the day and take in some baseball. It is conveniently near the Westgate City Center, Jobing.com Arena, and University of Phoenix Stadium just off the Loop 101. The entire facility has 13 full baseball fields, along with 3 half fields, a fully stocked pond located in between the Dodgers and White Sox facilities, as well as many walking paths for visitors to get around the entire facility and check out their favorite players doing various drills before the game. The scenery and views from everywhere on the grounds are absolutely breathtaking.

  7. Phoenix Municipal Stadium - Home of the Oakland Athletics Spring Training

    2014 was the last season the Oakland Athletics held their Spring Training games at Phoenix Municipal Stadium (known as Phoenix Muni to locals) after spending over 30 years there. The Athletics will move their spring training games to HohoKam Stadium in Mesa, AZ in 2015. Phoenix Muni opened its gates in 1964 for San Francisco Giants spring training games. Besides the Giants and the Athletics (beginning the 1982 season), it has also hosted the Phoenix Firebirds (former AAA team of the SF Giants). The ASU Sun Devils will begin play at this stadium in the 2015 season, moving from Packard Stadium.

  8. Scottsdale Stadium - Home of the San Francisco Giants Spring Training

    One of the most popular destinations - and certainly the one with the greatest "place to be" factor - is Scottsdale Stadium, the spring home of the 2010 and 2012 World Series champion San Francisco Giants. Originally constructed in 1992 with renovations in 2005, Scottsdale Stadium seats 12,000 and is most worthy of the popularity fans have bestowed upon it.

  9. Goodyear Ballpark - Home of the Cincinnati Reds Spring Training

    The beautiful Goodyear Ballpark is the spring training home of the Cincinnati Reds as well as the Cleveland Indians. It is located 22 miles from downtown Phoenix, AZ. The Cincinnati Reds used to play their spring training games at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, FL before heading to the Cactus League after the 2009 season.

  10. Cubs Park - Home of the Chicago Cubs Spring Training

    2014 marked the opening of the brand new Cubs Park in Mesa, Arizona. The Cubs have been in Mesa since 1952 and moved from Hohokam Park to Cubs Park to begin the 2014 year. The organization is trying to mimic Wrigley Field with the design and layout of Cubs Park including food specialties. They plan on adding ivy and incorporate other aspects of Wrigley during the off season. And one day, the park is expected to feature a ‘ballpark village’ with retail venues and restaurants, reminiscent of Wrigleyville. Cubs Park has got some kinks to work out mainly around automobile traffic/parking, people congestion, and beer options. They’ll get those kinks worked in the coming years, as new stadiums usually do. The move to Cubs Park is welcome for the Cubbie faithful, as it is a huge improvement over Hohokam Park in almost every way possible.

  11. Tempe Diablo Stadium - Home of the Los Angeles Angels Spring Training

    Tempe Diablo Stadium is the spring training facility for the Los Angeles Angels as well as the Arizona League (rookie league) AZL Angels. It was founded in 1968 and underwent an extensive renovation in 2005. The Angels have extended their spring training lease through 2025, so they will be at this stadium for many years.

  12. Goodyear Ballpark - Home of the Cleveland Indians Spring Training

    The Indians moved to Arizona from Florida in 2009, with the Reds coming the following year. The Indians had been a part of the Cactus League from 1947-1992 before they moved to Winter Haven, Florida for 17 years. Goodyear is one town east of Buckeye, which as its name suggests, was created and mostly inhabited by Ohio State alumni. Having both the Ohio MLB teams in one park near Buckeye presents many interesting advertising options for the clubs and other Ohio-based organizations. The Goodyear Recreation Complex is located just south of the main stadium, where the Indians and Reds clubhouses are, as well as 12 full-sized practice fields where fans can go watch their favorite players in the morning before a day game at the stadium. During the rest of the year, the City of Goodyear uses the fields for all kinds of city-sponsored baseball activities, as well as the AZL Indians and AZL Reds during Rookie League season.

  13. Surprise Stadium - Home of the Kansas City Royals Spring Training

    Surprise Stadium has been the Spring Training home of the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals since 2003. In the summer, the Rookie League level AZL Rangers play in Surprise, and in the fall, the Arizona Fall League’s Surprise Saguaros call the facility home. Surprise Stadium has a baseball capacity of 10,714. It also hosts several other events during the year, including college baseball tournaments in the weeks leading up to Spring Training.

  14. Surprise Stadium - Home of the Texas Rangers Spring Training

    The stadium is part of the Surprise Recreation Campus, which includes an additional 12 baseball fields, the Tennis and Racquet Complex, and the Surprise Aquatic Center. The city of Surprise is one of the newer communities in the Phoenix Metro area, and is one that is not easy to get to right now. However, this will change relatively soon with the ongoing construction of the brand new Loop 303 highway.

  15. Maryvale Baseball Park - Home of the Milwaukee Brewers Spring Training

    The Milwaukee Brewers have been holding their annual Spring Training at Maryvale Baseball Park in Maryvale, AZ since 1998. Prior to moving here, the Brewers held Spring Training at Compadre Stadium in Chandler from 1986-1997. One of the main issues with the stadium is where it is located, making it not a very attractive destination for baseball fans that visit the Phoenix area each March. While the Brewers website boasts that its easy access is one of the main drawing points, that’s not really the case at all.

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