Don’t fret, baseball fans: Spring training has finally arrived. The Colorado Rockies make their annual migration south to Arizona this month for spring training in the 15-team Cactus League. Tulo, CarGo, and an aging Todd Helton will be swinging the bat at a brand-new facility: Salt River Fields at Talking Stick near Scottsdale. The complex—which will also be used by division rival Arizona Diamondbacks—features 12 practice fields and an 11,000-seat stadium.
It’s about time. The Rockies’ old spring training home was Hi Corbett Field in Tucson, an aging structure built in 1937. “It was the oldest facility in all of spring training,” says Salt River Fields’ general manager David Dunne. Now, the Rockies have an 85,000-square-foot clubhouse. “I don’t know if they had 15,000 square feet at Hi Corbett,” Dunne jokes.
In a way, the Rockies’ move to Scottsdale was forced on them after the Chicago White Sox departed Tucson for the Phoenix metro area after the 2008 season. That left the Rockies and the Diamondbacks as the only two teams training in Tucson, meaning that they would need to travel nearly two hours for games against the other Cactus League teams. The Diamondbacks and Rockies decided to join forces on a new facility and work began on the complex in 2009.
The facility sits on Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community land, an area where Native Americans have played ball games for thousands of years. This season, add baseball to that sporting legacy. “You’re really getting an up-close-and-personal baseball experience,” Dunne says. “The amenities are unmatched at any spring training facility.” To wit: Fans can walk past the batting cages at the left and right field entrances or stand right next to the bullpens along the first and third baselines. “That’s as close as you’re going to get to a major league guy warming up,” Dunne says.