Diamondbacks Spring Training: Salt River Fields Preview

The new spring-training parks for the Rockies and Diamondbacks, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick., nears completion.

One month tomorrow, on February 19th, the Diamondbacks' pitchers and catchers will report to spring training, and baseball fans start to come out of hibernation. But this year, things will be radically different for both players and fans. After many years down in Tucson, 2011 marks the opening of Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, the new complex which the team will be sharing with the Colorado Rockies over in Scottsdale.

While construction still continues, we had a chance today to take a look round the facility, and although it's still very a work in progress, there's no denying that it's going to be among the finest parks in the Cactus League. After the jump, you'll find more thoughts on the Diamondbacks and Rockies new home.

  • 14,500 tons of decomposed granite
  • 3,313 tons of steel
  • 377 miles of wiring
  • 40,000 cubic yards of concrete
  • 2,165,878 square feet of sod, 23,693 trees. 18,450 shrubs
  • Two million man hours of work.
  • 10,558 light fixtures

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Salt River Fields: some assembly required

The numbers above give you some idea of the scale of the work involved in the project. And I must confess, it seems there's a lot to be done, given players will be rolling up in barely a month, with games starting less than two weeks beyond that. As you'll see below, the core of the stadium looks to be close to ready, but around the edges, the infrastructure - roads to and around the complex, or the main car park, for example - is still definitely well short of ready for the fans. And it's not as if you can push back spring training by a couple of weeks, either. I think there'll be a lot of all-nighters getting pulled over the next month.

The park itself, however, looks like it could be be used for a game today, with the grass probably in better condition than Chase Field's, after Friday night's motocross event! The place will hold a total of 11,000 spectactors: seven thousand in the seated areas, and another four thousand on the outfield grass - the biggest such area in the Cactus League. The aim is that all the seats will be in shade for first pitch on Opening Day, with about 85% of them being shaded for the game - from what I could see today, the first-base side is probably going to be the better-off, in terms of protection from the sun.

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Please direct your seat, to the shady side of the street...

Those of us cheapskates who are inhabiting the outfield grass haven't been forgotten, however. The main entrance gate, nearest the general admission car-park, is in center-field, and there are both concession stands and restrooms out there, for the lawn inhabitants [Mrs. SnakePit approves thoroughly]. On each side, there are also bridges to the park, where arriving fans can look down and see players  In left field, there's also a 24-ft by 48-ft video scoreboard, which will be the largest in the Cactus League; so Ken Levine will have absolutely no excuse for calling Ryan Roberts, "an unidentified Diamondback."

Speaking of dubious media behavior, we'll draw a veil over the identity of the "professional" who ignored the bit in the invite that said, "Because Salt River Fields is still under construction, all media attending the tour must wear boots or closed-toe shoes," and showed up in stilletto heels... However, I can tell you, it was not Jack Magruder. :-) And she wasn't the only one: several others had to make a quick exit to a nearby Payless to pick up a pair of construction-appropriate footwear. Really: you're going to be wearing a fluorescent yellow jacket and a safety helmet. Fashion concerns are kinda irrelevant.

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The Keli McGregor Weight Room

Perhaps the most impressive thing was how much room there is behind the scenes, especially given there are basically two of everything - one for the Rockies, and one for the Diamondbacks, with each franchise "owning" a side of the park; Colorado are on the first-base side, Arizona the third-base side. As well as the clubhouses - which are huge, the Diamondbacks one has room for sixty players! - there are weight training facilities [Colorado have named theirs in honor of their late president], cafeterias, video rooms... The list goes on. It's hard to think of anything that might be missing.

One interesting sidelight is that the teams chose two different ways to organize their respective sides. The Rockies have gone for amalgamation between the minor- and major-league players, for example, they all share the weight room shown above. However, the Diamondbacks have adopted a more structured approach. When you enter their side of the facilities, you can turn left and go down the minor-league corridor (with separate clubhouses for Triple-A, Double-A, etc.), or turn right and go down the major-league corridor, which has separate areas for those who have reached the big show.

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Don't like this park? There's another one over there...

Remember that two million-plus square feet of sod mentioned up above? There are more than a dozen baseball fields that are part of the complex, as well as standalone batting cages, pitching alleys and an agility field which is part natural grass, part Astroturf [so we can prepare for those trips to Toronto and Tampa!]. One of the full-size fields has been set up to have the same dimensions as Chase, and another is the same as the Salt River stadium. A three-acre artificial lake is used for irrigating all these parks - and appears to have already been enthusiastically received by the local bird population.

All told, it seems like a state of the art facility, that is completely set up to provide everything even the most picky Cubs fan could want from a spring training complex [except, of course, without a large suitcase of cash from the local taxpayers]. We'll be back on February 26th for Opening Day, when the complex will get its first real test., with what looks likely to be a sell-out crowd for the first game there. Is everything going to be ready? How will the roads cope? Will there be enough people at the concession stands? Only time will answer those questions, but right now... Damn, it's a good-looking ballpark.

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Here is Diamondbacks' president Derrick Hall, who offered some introductory remarks before today's event. Sorry the footage is a little dark, it was my first time using the new camera...



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