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Official Review by Jason Bartel, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The site of Scottsdale Stadium has been home to baseball since 1956. The current ballpark was constructed in 1991 and opened in 1992 as the Spring Training home of the San Francisco Giants. It will continue to be the home of the Giants through at least 2025. As part of that agreement to stay until 2025, the stadium underwent a $23.1 million renovation in 2006 to vastly improve the fan experience.
From 1992-1997, the Triple-A Phoenix Firebirds also called the stadium home. But with the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks beginning play in 1998 at Chase Field, the Firebirds were moved to Fresno and became the Grizzlies. Scottsdale Stadium also hosted three World Baseball Classic games in 2006, all of them featuring the team from South Africa. The WBC has since been moved to Salt River Fields at Talking Stick just a couple miles up the road.
Scottsdale Stadium seats 12,000 people, and remains one of the top facilities in the Cactus League. During the summer, the Arizona League Giants play their home games in the stadium as the facility only has one full practice field. Additional practice fields for the Giants are found at Indian School Park, which is about a mile northeast of the stadium.
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".
The concession stands are not open at any of the stadiums during Arizona League play. Almost every game starts at 7 PM local time, so it is definitely possible to bring your own dinner with you and eat it at the ballpark. There is no security check at Scottsdale Stadium to take any food from you that you might want to bring in. There are picnic tables on the walkway in right field for people to use for dinner.
With almost all of the games being played at night, the heat and sun aren't too big of an issue. The stadium does block out the sun early as the field, like all the others, faces northeast, so the seats in the infield are in the shade the entire time.
When going to an AZL Giants game, the only gate open is Gate B, which is on the first base side along Osborn Rd. The entire concourse and outfield walkway are open. The seats that are closer to the field of play are nice, comfortable seats, but no cup holders. The higher part of the seating area is where you'll find the metal bleachers, which is slightly different from the rest of the Phoenix area stadiums. But you will definitely not have an issue finding a good place to sit during an AZL game, as the stadium is mostly empty.
The Giants sit on the first base side, with their bullpen underneath the right field seating area. The main scoreboard is in left field, but does not provide any info on the current batter, just the basic line score, count and outs. If you sit in the outfield, you'll notice that the two scoreboards that are located on the press box façade are on as well, but those just show the score and the inning. The Giants do not have names on the back of their jerseys, so if you want to know who the players are, print out a roster before or have your smartphone ready. There is no PA announcer or music in between innings either.
Scottsdale Stadium may have the best neighborhood out of all the Cactus League stadiums. The stadium is located in Downtown Scottsdale, which most people know as Old Town. There are an enormous amount of entertainment options within walking distance, perfect during the summer when you want to hang out during the day dining and shopping, and then spend the night at the ballpark.
For restaurants, there are several different options all right next to each other. Los Olivos Mexican Patio, Jewel of the Crown, Pepin, Orange Table and AZ88 are the closest to the stadium of all the different options. There is also a gelato shop to grab some dessert before walking to the stadium.
A little farther out you'll find Big Earl's BBQ, which was once featured on "Man vs. Food". North of the stadium on Drinkwater Blvd. which runs along the third base side of the stadium, you'll find places like Firehouse Scottsdale, Barney's Boathouse and Bungalow Bar & Grill. When you're looking for restaurants, definitely use the Downtown Scottsdale website to find exactly what you're in the mood for. There's no doubt you'll find it.
Along with all these restaurants, there are a lot of cultural buildings in the area as well. Just northwest of the stadium you'll find the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts and the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. The SMoCA is typically open in the afternoon, so doing that in the afternoon, going out for dinner and then walking to the game makes for the perfect day in Scottsdale. The Scottsdale Historical Museum is another option in the immediate area.
For hotels, Comfort Suites Old Town is the closest to the stadium itself, but is located south of the stadium, whereas most of the entertainment and dining options are north of the stadium. But it's all very close together, so walking is not an issue, even during the day as they have done a nice job shading it. There's also a trolley system that connects all of Old Town. Outside of the Center for the Performing Arts is a nice park area, where there are fountains, sculptures, and other things that you can walk around and look at. It goes over Drinkwater Blvd. in between the city library at the Performing Arts building.
Arizona League games are mostly empty. Most of the people sitting in the stands are actually players on the team that aren't playing that day. Not a lot of cheering, jeering, and chanting going on during these games.
The easiest way to get to the stadium from anywhere is to take Indian School to Drinkwater, go south on Drinkwater, then park at the corner of Drinkwater and Osborn. The 101 Pima Fwy is the closest highway, and there is an exit at Indian School. If you're going to wander around the city before going to the game, there is a free parking garage on Drinkwater just north of the stadium at the library. There are also plenty of parking options throughout the rest of Old Town.
Also, the Scottsdale Trolley goes all around the Downtown area. You can find a map here. Valley Metro has a couple of bus stops in the area, the closest one being at the corner of Scottsdale Road and Osborn.
Once in the ballpark, getting around it is extremely easy. The walkway is open all around, including the entire outfield. The only bathrooms open are located where you enter at Gate B, and my experience was that the doors marked as exits are the only ones open, not the entrances. Handicap access is also easy because the main concourse is at street level.
Everything is free. Parking is free, there is no admission. Just a nice place to hang out on a summer night. No need for food to be sold in the park either with the plethora of choices in the area. And Scottsdale Stadium is a very nice place to watch a game, even if not very many people are there to see it.
A few extras here. Scottsdale Stadium is one of the more historic ballparks in the Phoenix Metro area, and it shows throughout the concourse and even on the outside of the park. As you're walking in, you'll notice framed artwork of gloves. Make sure to go up and read the plaques, because a lot of the gloves are extremely historical, including replicas of Ty Cobb's glove and Willie McCovey's glove among others.
In the empty concourse, you'll find two different Halls of Fame. One is the Scottsdale Sports Hall of Fame, and the other is the Arizona Fall League Hall of Fame. The Arizona Fall League is an important part of the yearly happenings at the stadium as it is traditionally the host of the AFL Championship Series. Many MLB greats have come through the Arizona Fall League, most recently Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. But you'll definitely recognize the names on the plaques of that Hall of Fame. You can find it on the first base side. The Scottsdale Hall of Fame is on the third base side.
One last extra for the neighborhood. I can't think of a better way to cap off a day in Downtown Scottsdale than visiting Scottsdale Stadium.
This is the one place where you can combine an AZL game with an entire day. Although the stadium is very empty, it's still very cool to go and just relax. When I went to visit the AZL Giants, it was my first time back at the stadium since 2003, where I saw Matt Cain pitch as an 18 year old, and Barry Bonds crushed a ball about 500 feet over the right field pavilion.
Although it's much different from a Spring Training game, it's still in a great neighborhood and a great place to watch baseball.
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