What I Saw In Arizona. Part Three: The Best New Ballpark

I confessed earlier that my eight days in the Cactus League was my first ever stay there of longer than two days.

What I missed!

Besides the convenience of 15 clubs inside a radius of about an hour’s drive, some of the stadium architecture is remarkable. I saw Glendale’s Camelback Ranch new, in 2009 – terrific. Same for Surprise. The remodels in Phoenix Muni and HoHoKam are strong and comfortable. Goodyear was the only place that didn’t impress me.

And then there’s Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Simply put: pound-for-pound it’s the best baseball stadium built in this country since Dodger Stadium opened in 1962.IMG_4547Here’s the best view I was able to get that shows all three primary design elements.

First: To the left behind the foul pole is the Diamondbacks’ office building and shop, with the just-slightly-slanted roof that evokes Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West style that dominates much of Arizona architecture:TW

Second: that imperial but still low-to-the-ground Wright style contrasts to the giant stadium superstructure on the right. The oversized ‘upper deck’ looks like it was taken from either the original Wrigley Field in Chicago, or its much more avant-garde namesake, Wrigley Field Los Angeles:WFLA

Wrigley Field Los Angeles, around 1930. Most of the baseball scenes in most of the black and white films and tv series up to about 1962 were filmed there, and the Angels spent their first season there before becoming temporary tenants at Dodger Stadium.

Third: Add in the light towers – also unnecessarily tall – plus the steepness of the entire structure that feels almost like Boston Garden and you get this extraordinary impression of grandeur.

I have a question for you about the size of the park. Take a look at another picture:IMG_4552

Here’s the question: How many seats do you think this place has?

The correct answer is 7,000. It’s about the same size as every other spring training ballpark but it looks twice as big. It’s imposing and impressive and lends a quality of drama to a Rockies-Royals exhibition game when it’s rainy and 42 degrees.


IMG_4553There is a flaw. The press box isn’t quite right. It’s not the Pepsi sign right behind the plate. That bothers you at first but then you realize it’s just about the only annoying signage in the place.

One more image:IMG_4588That’s the exterior of the third base side.

I don’t know what else I can say, except that if somebody gave me a team tomorrow – majors or minors – and the money to build it a new ballpark, I’d order one of these, to seat about 45,000.

A separate note: starting tomorrow I’ll begin the annual divisional previews, opening with the NL East.


  1. Mary Caruso

    I love the concept of the structure blending in with the mountains surrounding it. It is unobtrusive and very attractive with the pool. The second picture is my favorite. I feel like I’d love to dip my toe into that. Another facet I appreciate is the openness you feel in your pictures. It’s like you are watching Shoeless Joe Jackson and the rest of the players on that cornfield in Iowa. I don’t get that crowded feeling. As for signage, I knew Pepsi would ruin it but it’s a far cry from the neon flashers that go on in other stadiums. I didn’t see a scoreboard so I’m assuming there was none (?). It is elegant in its simplicity. I can see the influence your father has on you when you discuss architecture. He was definitely an excellent person to look up to and you show your love deeply. Thank you for taking me along on your journey to the Cactus League. LyK

  2. SamYanksGiantsMets

    Instead of taking pictures Keith needs to get going with his 2013 predictions so he isn’t finished with them in June like usual! Just kidding. I wondered if L.A.’s Wrigley Field was in the 1950 film noir “711 Ocean Drive” but I think it was Gilmore Field where the Hollywood Stars played at that time (also where “The Stratton Story” with Jimmy Stewart was filmed).

  3. office of surrealist investigations

    Was there about a week ago. Last stop of 6 day, 6 park week of baseball and couldn’t agree more. Scoreboard was went beyond the minimal name and position listings at most parks and showed full lineups, stats and video. A lot of thought put into standing room views and seated views from the beer concessions, with a good selection of microbrews too. The best park by far among Peoria, Goodyear, Scottsdale, Phoenix Municipal, though Camelback was pretty impressive.

  4. ShoeBeDoBeDo

    From that perspective, the Diamondbacks’ office building gives the impression that it was built right into the rocks. The big boulder in front looks as though it may have come to rest there on its own. The natural light inside must be gorgeous, as the desert sun makes it way slowly across the sky.

    If I was going to build a baseball stadium in Arizona, I suppose one thing
    would be a constant at the back of my mind: The granddaddy of all superstructures in Arizona: The Grand Canyon. Everything else must compete with its immensity and grandeur. I’d say Salt River Fields does a pretty good job of doing just that.

    Keith, you’re a wonderful travel guide. I hope you take us along with you on an another adventure soon. 🙂

  5. John V

    Couldn’t agree more. Minor nit, though: That’s the Rockies’ building there beyond RF. The almost-twin DBacks building is beyond LF.

  6. Turk

    KO great photos as usual. Again you show why you will always be this generation’s Capa. Keep being yourself and you will always have a fan in me. Love you faults and all.


  7. Jim Eggers

    I was hoping you would write again and tell us the name of the park.(TEASE!) I was stunned the other day when my bride said we should go to Arizona and do a spring training tour. After 25 years, she still surprises me. Lets start playing the real games, the ones that count, and look out for …..

  8. RobertaK (@justme2)

    Might be the best minor league park — I still think AT&T is the best major league, and I admit freely my bias. Come to a game sometime, and get seats in the upper deck; beautiful view of the Bay Bridge and the East Bay hills, you can watch the water cannons go off when there’s a home run into the Cove, then take a walk across the Lefty O’Doul Bridge and take a look at the McCovey statue right across from the park (I usually have a picture of Stretch as my avatar; I’ll probably change back to it later this season).

  9. DarkAudit

    This is what Morgantown,WV should be building to replace Hawley Field. Gotta build it, ’cause a NY-Penn League team wants to move in when it’s done.

  10. Pingback: MLB Opening Day and Keith’s predictions | Countdown with Keith Olbermann - Unofficial Fanblog

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