My final stadium visit on this current trip takes me to the Valley of the Sun.
One of the main reasons I planned this trip in April was so I could avoid the furnace like temperatures of Arizona that usually kick in sometime early to mid-May. Also, from what I’ve read, the experience at Chase Field is much nicer with the roof opened which typically only happens in April. The morning temps were in the low 70s with the game time forecast around 78 with clear skies – so all is looking good.
I had plenty of time to explore the city before the game. Phoenix is the Arizona State Capital and the 6th largest city in the US, and while it doesn’t have any iconic ‘must see’ landmarks it’s got a pretty bustling downtown and is easy to get around on foot. There’s also a decent light rail system that I could have taken out to Scottsdale, Mesa, etc.
One of the things that impressed me the most about Phoenix was all of the great art-deco buildings and structures, probably the most I’ve seen outside of New York City or Los Angeles. Also, all of the really interesting plant life (especially the giant Seguros) and all the cool little lizards.
Being on the boundary of the Sonoran desert, I’ve been told that on plenty of occasions, mountain lions, bobcats and scorpions come wandering into the city. While I didn’t see any of those, but I did spot a couple of eagles overhead.
A few blocks from the stadium is Roosevelt Row (the city’s main art district) and the Arizona Science Center.If you have the time and the energy, there are some great day hikes nearby at Camelback Mountain.
There’s no shortage of good restaurants and bars to spend time in in downtown – but there were two (very different) places that I liked the best. Alice Cooperstown – owned by its name sake is a great sports bar who’s signature item is the “Big Unit” – a 22” hot dog loaded with fixings which, if you can finish, earns you your picture on the wall with the Big Unit himself, Randy Johnson. The other is the Public Market Café right off of Central Ave near the ASU Phoenix campus . It’s a great Farm to Table open air food market with amazing burgers and a large selection of craft brews.
After a quick stop back at the hotel to regroup, I headed over to the park around quarter past 5 for a 7 PM scheduled start to give myself plenty of time to explore.
The ballpark is located on the edge of downtown Phoenix which was an easy 10 minute walk from my hotel.
The park is in the same complex as the Talking Stick Arena where the NBA Suns and NHL Coyotes call their home.
Right outside the home plate entrance is the APS Solar Pavilion. In this 17,000 square foot plaza, fans can congregate and enjoy some music and drinks at the Game Seven Grill before entering the ballpark.
Inside the park, there are several specialty sections that are designed to maximize fan interaction, including the Pet Smart Patio in left field and the Coors Strike Zone in right field. Just beyond the right field fence there is the ‘legendary’ swimming pool and hot tub (which is actually a lot smaller than it appears on TV). Chase Field has one of the largest HD scoreboards in the major leagues measuring 46 feet high by 136 feet wide.
The ballpark is bigger than most (it's almost like being in an airplane hangar) or at least has that feel when the roof is open – which gratefully it was tonight. Getting around is easy and there are lots of concessions and team shops. The main stadium store is like a mini Home Depot which I guess it needs to be since the D-Backs have more uniform variations to sell than any other team in the bigs. There are lots of artifacts and visuals of the 2001 World Championship season, the team's only appearance in the fall classic, and clearly the high-point in franchise history.
For the last few seasons, there has been a real trend (almost a competition) among major league venues to come up with the most extreme food offerings they can think of, and there are not many stadiums that match what they have here at Chase.
Their most remarkable is the D-Bat Dog which debuted in 2014. This $25 creation is an 18- inch corn dog stuffed with cheddar cheese, jalapenos and wrapped in bacon, served on a small village of French fries and a free angioplasty. The Funnel Cake Chicken Sandwich is a crispy chicken cutlet is topped with black pepper garlic cheddar cheese, strawberry jam, maple syrup and powdered sugar, and served between two funnel cakes. But my personal favorite is the Churro Dog which consists of a chocolate glazed longjohn donut for a bun, a cinnamon Churro pretending to be a wiener, and topped with frozen yogurt, whipped cream, caramel, and chocolate sauce and weighs in at an impressive 1,600 calories! Yum Yum!
The fans at Chase are pretty laid back. There is clearly a mix of native Arizonans and retirees / transients from the East Coast who have gotten sick of shoveling snow. The D-Backs average around 25,000 fans per game and with the large number of retirees who have moved to the Phoenix area, it’s not unusual for visiting fans to show up in large numbers, at times outnumbering the local fans. There was as much if not more cheering for the Cardinals tonight than the D-Backs.
As far as value for your money, Chase Field is well ahead of average. You can have a pleasant night at the park with a decent seat, food, beer and a souvenir or two without taking out a second mortgage like at Yankee Stadium.
The game was close for a while with the Snakes taking a 3-2 lead into the top of the 6th against Adam Wainwright who was looking for his first win of the season. The Cards unloaded on Patrick Corbin with 5 in the 6th and 3 more in the 7th (including a bases clearing triple by Wainwright) en route to an 11-4 blowout.
So, not really that exciting of a contest, but a really enjoyable night out nonetheless.
So, this was my last game on this trip but before I head home, I’m taking one more day to go out and see Sonoma and the Grand Canyon for my first time ever! I’m down to only 3 parks left with my next trip in June being out to the Pacific Northwest to Seattle.
Fans - B – Laid back but enthusiastic during big moments. A good mix of locals and east coast transplants
Features - B - Retractable roof and panels, Swimming pool beyond the outfield fence. 46’ HD scoreboard
Location - B - Relatively easy walk from downtown and mass transit. Same complex as the hockey/basketball arena and the Phoenix convention center
Food - A - Lots of extreme eats. Gets an 'A' just for the Churro dog alone. Plenty of great food choices for the not so adventurous as well.
Game - C - Close contest through 5, then the Cards blew it open. Fan exodus started in the 7th
Overall Experience - B - Nice park to watch a game. Not sure how much less I would have enjoyed it with it shuddered up or having to deal with the oppressive heat from June to September.