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Salt River Fields: the complex that revolutionized spring training

As the spring training complex known officially as Salt River Fields at Talking Stick turns six years old, it’s easy to see its impact on the sport. Today, Major League teams want bigger clubhouses, more practice space and a better experience for their springtime fans. Salt River paved the way for all of that.

This article first appeared in the Spring Training Preview issue of USA TODAY Sports Weekly. I had so much great material for it that I obtained permission to reproduce here in an unabridged form. I think you’ll enjoy the extra insights that this longer piece offers.

Check out the article here.  If you’ve been lucky enough to attend a game or event at Salt River, post a comment at the bottom of the article with your impressions.

Peoria completes $42-million renovations

With exhibition games about to start in Arizona, it’s a good time to get you up-to-date on the biggest ballpark change in the Phoenix area.

Florida has seen a lot of dollars spent on significant upgrades at the Tigers’ complex in Lakeland ($48 million) and the Yankees’ facilities in Tampa ($40 million). Almost $150 million has been spent on a brand-new complex in West Palm Beach for the Astros and Nationals. Pick up a copy of the Feb. 15 USA TODAY Sports Weekly to check out my two-page article on the new complex.

In Arizona, though, the changes for 2017 are far less widespread.  As a board member of the Cactus League Association told me, “Public funding is drying up because there is no type of funding program that’s active right now.” That means there’s fewer renovations of existing complexes and no brand-new complexes on the drawing board.

Fans of the Mariners and Padres, though, will be enjoying some great enhancements at Peoria Stadium starting this week. That’s because work has just been completed on a multi-year project that cost a total of $42 million. Read More

Braves planning move from Disney to Sarasota County

Since 1997, the Braves have conducted spring training at the Wide World of Sports area of Disney World near Orlando. As they’ve been nearing the end of their lease there, it’s been no secret that they’ve been checking out the possibility of building a new complex elsewhere in Florida.

Looks like they’ve found the spot.

Tuesday morning, Braves executives met with local leaders in Sarasota County to publicly discuss their desire to construct a new complex on undeveloped land near the community of North Port. The 70-acre site lies just south of the North Port campus of the State College of Florida, placing it a 12-mile drive from the spring-training complex of the Rays in Port Charlotte and under an hour to play the Orioles in Sarasota and the Pirates in Bradenton.  The Red Sox and Twins, both in Fort Myers, would also be close.

“We’ve liked it at Disney,” Braves Vice Chairman John Schuerholz told me recently, “but we don’t have the teams around to play.  They’ve all moved out.” Indeed, with the Nationals vacating Viera and the Astros departing Kissimmee (both bound for a new complex in West Palm Beach), the Braves are down to one team (the Tigers in Lakeland) within a two-hour drive. “It’s just too much time on the bus and not enough on the practice fields,” Schuerholz observed. Read More

Sneak peek at Ballpark Of The Palm Beaches

It has been almost three full years from the time Jim Crane, owner of the Houston Astros, and Mark Lerner, principal owner of the Washington Nationals, met at the request of Palm Beach County, Florida to work together to build a new two-team spring training facility in South Florida.

Since then, Giles Kibbe, the Astros’ General Counsel, and Arthur Fuccillo, Executive Vice President of Lerner Enterprises, have worked tirelessly to make the facility a reality for the fans of the teams and Palm Beach County itself.

Fuccillo, who acted as my host for a tour of the complex, has been at Lerner for over thirty-five years. As such, he has been involved in all facets of legal work, the development of regional malls, major shopping centers, apartment complexes, hotels, the present day Nationals Park and significant other commercial developments.

However, since the Lerner family owns the Washington Nationals (and Fuccillo is a minority owner himself), he is asked from time to time to use his construction/development and legal experience to help in the business dealings of the baseball club.  So it was only natural that he was asked to become involved in the zoning, negotiation and construction of the team’s new spring-training complex.

And he is quick to point out that, “as they say, we’re on time and on budget.”  That budget, he said, is exactly $148,577,137.

And the timeline is in good hands. “Hunt Construction Group is working around the clock to get us open. They have over 650 people on site,” he added. “We cannot thank our consultants enough for all their hard work and time they have put into this project.  We look forward to being here with the Houston Astros and having successful spring training seasons for the next 30 years.”

The parcel of land for this complex measures approximately 160 acres.  When you subtract areas for parking, the three lakes within its borders and a ten-acre community park that will be built along its western edge, you’re left with less than 100 acres for the actual practice facilities and stadium.  That made it critical to be efficient with the use of land.

Read More

Ballpark Year In Pictures

2016 was quite a year for ballpark news.  A new park, a delayed park, even a pop-up park!

Each year, we provide a look back at the biggest events in the world of baseball stadiums. Besides, during the dark days of the offseason, you need to re-engage the part of your brain that processes the National Pastime!

Check out the Ballpark Year In Pictures for 2016!

New edition of poster now available

Just in time for Holiday gift-giving, the popular TOURING THE MAJORS poster has been updated and is now in stock!

Thousands of  baseball fans have purchased previous editions of this colorful poster, and now you have the opportunity to obtain the fully updated version, complete with the Atlanta Braves’ new stadium that opens in April, 2017.

Simply go to our page that describes the poster and place your order today!  If you’d like for it to be autographed by author Joe Mock (the publisher of the Touring The Majors poster), just say so in the comments field when you’re placing your order.

What better gift could you give the baseball fan in your life!?!