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Official Review by Jason Bartel, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Surprise Recreation Complex is used by the Texas Rangers almost year-round, hosting Spring Training, the Arizona Fall League’s Suprise Saguaros, and the AZL Rangers during the summer. The complex on the far west side of the Phoenix area opened in 2003, and is also home to the Kansas City Royals clubhouse and Spring Training facilities.
The ballpark itself is part of a much larger complex, which includes 12 baseball fields, an aquatic center, a tennis and racquet club, as well as City Hall and Surprise Community Park. Surprise has been a bit out of the way compared to the rest of Phoenix, but with the construction of the new Loop 303 Hwy, access to the area has improved greatly, but that’s not saying a whole lot.
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No concessions are sold at Surprise Stadium during Arizona League play. You can bring in your own food though, as there is no security at the gates.
Playing Arizona League games in the actual stadium is a questionable decision for these teams to say the least. Only a few hardcore baseball fans show up to these games, so playing in an empty 10,000 seat stadium is, well, strange. Almost all AZL games start at 7 PM local time, so the sun is not typically an issue.
One thing Surprise has going for it is the use of the entire scoreboard. This helps identify who the players are. There are no announcers, but the stadium does play some music in between innings.
The Rangers sit in the first base dugout, which is where all of the team's facilities lie. The clubhouse is located along the first base concourse, as well as the batting cages, training facilities, and all of the Rangers' fields. However, the only way to enter the stadium is through the gate along the third base line. That's the gate closest to the main parking lot, but nothing about the stadium setup is ideal for these types of games.
The Surprise Recreation Campus is sort of isolated from everything, so there really isn't too much of a neighborhood to speak of. Just east of the stadium is the main park, where there is an aquatic complex, tennis courts, and a pretty big park area.
That's really it though as far as things to do near the stadium. A few miles east along Bell you will find all kinds of chain restaurants and fast food, but not very many unique dining options. Longhorn Steakhouse is a nice restaurant that is located on Bell just west of Litchfield.
The corner of Bell and Reems, which is northwest of the stadium, has a couple of options including Macayo's, Babbo Italian Eatery, and Booty's Wings Burgers and Beer.
There are two hotels on Bullard Ave. for fans to stay. The Residence Inn and Holiday Inn Express are both fairly close to the stadium.
With the addition of the Loop 303, it brings a couple of things into play that weren't easy to get to before. Wildlife World Zoo is now about ten minutes away since the new highway goes right next to it. Nothing else entertainment-wise is there as of 2014, but there is a lot of new area for the Northwest Valley to develop now.
The people that tend to attend Arizona League games are only the most diehard baseball fans alive, or those people that are just looking for something free to do on a pleasant, summer evening. It's quiet at Surprise during Spring Training, and it is dead silent during AZL.
Surprise Stadium is the most difficult stadium to get to in the Phoenix area. It isn't near any highways yet, and the road that does lead out to it runs next to a train track the entire way. The easiest way to get there from the rest of the Phoenix Metro area is to exit the Loop 101 Agua Fria Fwy at Bell Rd and go west a long way. On Bell, you'll drive through Peoria, Sun City, Surprise, Sun City West, and then be back in Surprise again. You'll want to turn south off of Bell at Bullard Ave., which runs right next to the stadium and feeds to the parking lot.
Even though the 303 is not completed, you can still access it from I-10 at the Sarival exit. As of July 2014, most of the actual highway is completed, so it's easier than the other options for those coming from the south or west valley. If you take the 303, you'll want to use the Greenway exit to get to the stadium.
Once at the stadium, parking is easy. The parking lot is on the north side of the stadium, and you'll have plenty of options during the summer.
There's one main concourse that goes all the way around the stadium. One thing about the AZL games here is that the entire outfield grass is open. During Spring Training, dead center is roped off, but not during the summer. The main concourse has all kinds of grounds crew golf carts and things parked along it, which was different. The only bathrooms that are open are along the first base concourse.
Everything's free. But you get what you pay for. There are no bells and whistles, just baseball in its purest form. It's definitely not the worst free thing that you could do on a summer night in Phoenix.
Nope, no extras here.
I enjoy Arizona League games just because you can hear almost everything that's going on during the game. Whether it's sitting next to scouts, or sitting next to the players that aren't playing that night, it's interesting. But driving to Surprise to do it isn't exactly worth it.
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14127 W Bell Rd
Surprise, AZ 85374
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16540 N Bullard Ave
Surprise, AZ 85374
16418 N Bullard Ave
Surprise, AZ 85374