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Official Review by Jason Bartel, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Camelback Ranch is one of the newest spring training complexes in the Cactus League, playing host to the LA Dodgers as well as the Chicago White Sox. 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. The stadium has the largest capacity in the Cactus League with a capacity of 13,000.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
What kind of food do you think of when you think of the Dodgers? Dodger Dogs of course! And Camelback Ranch definitely offers these as one of many options that are in the stadium. They have every traditional baseball food item that one would expect, as well as a few unique Mexican, barbeque, and noodle stands. Since the stadium plays host to the Dodgers and White Sox, it sort of combines typical southwestern fare with a touch of some Midwest flavor. But you can never really go wrong with a Dodger Dog.
The overall vibe of the area is absolutely incredible. The stadium itself is gorgeous, mixed together with the mountain views and sunny days; it is just a great place to see a game. It is definitely the most unique stadium in the Cactus League, with an interestingly designed scoreboard, and a wood façade on the suite level. There is ample lawn seating for those who prefer to lie out in the outfield on their blankets. The overall architecture and design of all the buildings in and around the stadium is just remarkable. Don't expect very many stats or a radar gun on the scoreboard though.
Also with Dodgers games, who knows what Dodgers legend will make an appearance that day. The day I went, Tommy Lasorda just happened to be sitting behind home plate of one of the practice fields signing autographs and taking pictures all morning. With all that tradition in their past, the Dodgers definitely know how to put on a show for the fans, even if it is spring training.
The immediate area around Camelback Ranch does not have much to offer since it is mostly a residential area. But if you drive two miles north on the Loop 101, you can go to the Westgate City Center which has all kinds of restaurants and shops. Just some of the examples are: Margaritaville, Calico Jack's Cantina, Gordon Biersch, Johnny Rocket's, McFadden's, Yard House, an AMC movie theatre, typical mall shops and so much more. And if you go on the right day, you can catch a baseball game in the afternoon, and then go to a Coyotes game or a concert at Jobing.com Arena that night after eating dinner at Westgate.
If you go the other direction on the 101, you can go to Gateway Pavilions, which is another but smaller shopping center, that has some fast food and big chain stores that you can do your shopping in as well as a Harkins movie theatre.
I think Camelback Ranch brings out some of the more hardcore fans for a couple of reasons. One is the Dodgers are still relatively new to being in Arizona in March instead of Florida. It gives people who usually go to Cactus League games a new team and a new place to go. I also think the more hardcore fans come out because it is so easy to watch the teams practice in the morning. I personally spent half an hour watching the Dodgers pitching staff work on their pickoff moves to first and second and then work on fielding bunts. Also there are so many fields that the public can get to, you have a ton of choices of whom and what you want to see. If live batting practice is your thing, there's a field for that. If bunting drills is what you're in to, you go to that half field. There are just so many options, and it can be really interesting to see how major league practices are run.
During the game, it is noisier than most other spring training games. Dodger fans are definitely passionate about their team, and know a lot about everyone, including the guys that will end up in Albuquerque when camp breaks anyway. And since the stadium has such a good reputation, you get fans of many teams, which can lead to some interesting conversation during the game.
Parking is free. And there is a lot of it, so parking is not an issue at all at Camelback Ranch. The bathroom lines can get a little long, and so can the concession lines because they are all bunched together and not really spread out throughout the stadium concourse. This is really the only issue that I have with this stadium. They even have public restrooms out among the practice fields so there is no need to go to the stadium and then head back out.
Since it is the Dodgers, and they are still a novel thing in Arizona, the price for tickets can be extremely high. The price for food can also be very high, but this seems to be what all the Cactus League stadiums are trending towards. Even though it is a very nice setting for a day of baseball, it does cost money to enjoy it. Parking being free helps with this though. It was very expensive for the cities of Glendale and Phoenix to build this facility, so hopefully when it starts getting paid off maybe the prices will get a little more reasonable for tickets.
The fact that I just randomly found Tommy Lasorda sitting at a table in the middle of the facility is pretty awesome. And the overall look and feel of the entire area is just remarkable. They also have some family friendly games when you walk in through the outfield gates. If you like baseball, you will love a day at Camelback Ranch.
I have been to almost every Cactus League stadium within the last 7 years, and this is by far my favorite place to go to. Everything is so modern, yet it looks like a classic stadium. It is a very comfortable place to just go hang out for a day. I highly recommend it for anyone that is going to be spending some time in the Phoenix area in March.
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