Some of baseball’s biggest stars, including Cody Bellinger and Anthony Rizzo, and this year, J.D. Martinez, are traveling to the Valley for Cactus League baseball this spring.
The sluggers bring home the big bucks, but behind their star power are millions of dollars poured into municipalities like Scottsdale, Mesa and Peoria.
According a recent report, the 2018 Cactus League season generated an estimated economic impact of $644.2 million, an 11-percent increase on the 2015 output estimate in real terms.
The study, which surveyed only out-of-state visitors, also found the Cactus League generated $373 million for Arizona’s gross domestic product. The average traveling party spent $405 per day.
“This is a grand slam for Arizona’s economy,” said Cactus League President Jeff Meyer. “These figures tell the story of Spring Training’s awesome power as a tourism engine — and we need to ensure that the industry continues to remain robust.
“We are grateful to Major League Baseball and the host communities for their partnership and to the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority for providing funding for ballpark construction and renovation.”
Founded in 1947, the Cactus League began with the New York Giants training in Phoenix and the Cleveland Indians in Tucson. Now there are 15 MLB clubs in 10 ballparks across Maricopa County. Like last year, Spring Training is starting earlier — Thursday, February 24 — because the MLB added days off to the regular schedule.
“We’re trying to get the word out about that,” Meyer says.
He invites locals to come down early in the Spring Training season, because great tickets are plentiful.
“Not as many people are traveling that time of year,” Meyer says.
What makes this year special is the defending champions, the Boston Red Sox, are making a rare appearance at the end of March. They’re playing the Cubs at Sloan Park March 25 and March 26 before the Sox head to Chase Field for the D-backs’ home opener.
Meyer says the Cactus League is successful because of the Valley’s wide range of amenities.
“We have the hotels, the lodging, the restaurants,” he says. “Tourists take in a game and then go to the Grand Canyon. I think it’s what Arizona has to offer. You can’t beat the weather this time of year.
“We’re very appreciative of the condition we have here in Arizona. And, in the last two years, we haven’t had a rainout.”
Among the highlighted items is the significant construction at Maryvale, the spring home of the Milwaukee Brewers. In November 2017, the Phoenix City Council approved the plans to renovate the ballpark. The plan keeps the Club in Maryvale at the Brewers Fields of Phoenix through at least the year 2042, the second-longest commitment in the Cactus League.
A new stand-alone, two-story building will house new locker rooms, training spaces and support functions for the major and minor league teams, a new flagship retail sales store and a new primary ticket office at the new home plate gate. The building’s north side will have concession stands and restrooms as the first base concourse will be widened to accommodate better pedestrian traffic. A second floor will be constructed to house new offices for baseball operations, and will feature a walkout patio with views of training facilities to the south.
Other improvements include a new entry plaza behind home plate, a renovated Major League clubhouse, and a new Major League batting tunnels, agility field, covered Major League practice mounds, Major League practice field and parking lots.
“The Cactus League is a game-changer for Arizona’s tourism industry,” says Debbie Johnson, director of the Arizona Office of Tourism. “Generations of baseball fans have fallen in love with Arizona — and Arizona loves to welcome them back every spring.”