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Official Review by Jason Bartel, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Opened in 2011, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick is the home of Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies Spring Training, the Arizona Fall League’s Salt River Rafters, and during the summer, the AZL DBacks. While the main stadium is one of the best I’ve ever visited, the AZL Diamondbacks play most of their home games on Field D-1, and play six home games in 2013 in the main stadium.
It seems to be a common theme with the newer facilities that the AZL clubs play on a side field, since the games are not well attended and are intended solely for development of recent draft picks. The side fields are technologically advanced enough at these new complexes that they can host an MiLB-affiliated game.
Talking Stick is a great complex, complete with 12 full practice fields in total, two practice infields, and a batting cage on the Diamondbacks’ side of the complex as well as one on the Rockies’ side. Field D-1 (Diamondbacks 1) is located at the northern end of the complex with its own parking lot beyond left field.
Talking Stick was the first MLB facility built on Native American land. It is located in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community near Scottsdale. The Diamondbacks and Rockies are both signed up to be there through 2031. And while the stadium and complex are a must-see during the spring, the same is definitely not true during the summer.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
No concessions are sold at AZL games throughout the year, no matter where they are held. But you can bring your own food with you to the game and have a nice picnic. There is no security check at these games, so feel free to bring a whole meal. In fact, a lot of the players that weren't playing the night I went had Jamba Juice and Wendy's with them.
There is very little atmosphere here. The field faces to the west, which is an issue for games that start at 7 PM local time. All the fans that are there are looking into the sun for about an hour or so, and there's no alternative to this.
The parking lot is located in left field, and you walk down a service road to get to the public area. There are some concrete slabs set up behind home plate, but that's it. So if you want to be a little bit comfortable, bring your own camping chair. There's a lot of space near the Diamondbacks dugout on the third base side to set up camp.
The Diamondbacks also have their bullpen on the left field side, so you can be right near them and put your chair in between the dugout and bullpen. There are rocks there though, so it's not ideal.
The scoreboard is interesting. It's basically like what you would see in a high school gym. They can't make the time remaining space blank either, so the entire game the scoreboard reads "60:00" plus the score, and the count. But it's really small and hard to read behind home plate. If you're really concerned about the score, just ask one of the Diamondback players that are running the board or the one that's updating Gamecast that night. There are no announcers and no music in between innings.
Salt River Fields is located right next to The Pavilions at Talking Stick, which is a shopping center that has a couple of chain restaurants and stores in it, and also has Ultrastar Cinemas. Filiberto's is great if you're looking for some good, cheap Mexican food. You could also check out YC's Mongolian Grill if you're in the mood for some Asian food.
Across the Loop 101 from the baseball complex is Talking Stick Resort and Casino. The resort features a hotel, as well as a spa and a golf course, which everyone can make an entire day out of. On the north side of the complex, you can find Ventura Grill, which has happy hour M-F from 3-6, and live music on Friday nights.
One thing that will improve the area is the opening of Buffalo Wild Wings in The Pavilions at Talking Stick. It should greatly improve the experience at Spring Training as well as for AZL and AFL games.
In addition to the hotel at Talking Stick Resort, there is the Pima Inn & Suites directly across the street from the baseball complex. Hampton Inn and Suites is just on the other side of the Loop 101 as well.
There's a lot of great parks to hang out in the area as well. Comanche Park is the closest, but Chaparral Park is not very far away and has its own lake.
A typical AZL crowd is in the double digits, and the Diamondbacks are no different. It's really dead. The way to get entertainment out of the people there is by sitting with the players. When I went, the Brewers were visiting Talking Stick and all they were doing was complaining about where they got drafted and how small their signing bonuses were.
The Salt River Fields complex is located just west of the Loop 101 Pima Fwy at the Indian Bend Rd. Exit. You could also take the Pima Rd. or Via de Ventura exits if you are coming from the north.
The parking lot you want to use for the AZL Diamondbacks is just east of Pima Rd. on the north side of the complex (close to Via de Ventura). Parking is free, and is right next to the field.
The one thing that seemed to be missing was public restrooms. The main Diamondbacks training facility is open, so if you need to use the facilities, it looked like you have to have a member of Diamondbacks personnel let you into the building. Also, the spectator area is in grass, dirt and rocks, so handicap access is not very easy.
Everything is free, but this is not the place to go see AZL games. No bleacher seating, no public restrooms. If you really want to go to an AZL game in the area, go see the AZL Giants at Scottsdale Stadium if they are at home that night.
No extras for this practice field.
As I've mentioned, this is definitely not the best place to see an AZL game. The sun is in your face for the first half of the game, and it's just not a comfortable experience. Definitely go see the Diamondbacks and Rockies during Spring Training at Talking Stick, but go somewhere else for AZL action.
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9261 East Vía de Ventura
Scottsdale, AZ 85258
9150 East Indian Bend Road
Scottsdale, AZ 85258
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