When you think of spring training, Florida is the first location that comes to mind for many. ForNortheasterners, it’s the anchor for Spring break plans and a 2-3 hour flight. The Phillies were the first major league teams to use Florida as training destination, starting in 1889. 1913, however, marked the first year with multiple teams making the trip, with Cubs playing in Tampa, and the Indians playing in Pensacola. Two years later, the Grapefruit league officially started. Over the years, other destinations have included Hot Springs Arkansas (Cardinals) and New Orleans (Yankees), and even Havana, Cuba (Brooklyn Dodgers). Over the years, all but six of the major league teams have gone to spring training in Florida but more recently Arizona’s Cactus league has attracted more and more teams. With the Dodgers, Indians and Reds move to Arizona in 2009-10, the Cactus League now has as many teams as does Florida’s Grapefruit league.
As of 2011, all Cactus League teams play within a 25-mile radius of downtown Phoenix. That has been the case after three teams moved north from Tucson and another three have migrated from Florida. The result is model that baseball executives love given the efficiencies in travel and scouting. It has also become more and more of a go-to destination for a fans looking to get their fix of spring baseball. The result is a baseball fans paradise where you can see half of major league baseball play for the cost of a Red Sox ticket for one regular season game. For a Cubs fans who wanted to make sure they didn’t miss any split-squad action this weekend, they could get Royals tickets for their 4:05 game against the Cubs, stay for a few innings and then pick up some Cubs tickets for their game against the Mets. That would still leave plenty of time for Red Sox tickets to their 7:05 game against the Phillies, Yankees tickets for their 9:05 game against the Marlins and White Sox tickets for the last few innings of their 10:05 game against the Dodgers. Even for the the heartiest of baseball fans, that’s an itinerary that’s hard to top. In Florida, teams are much more spread out with as far as 155 miles to go between parks. For a fan looking to put together a spring training weekend, in Florida you have to pick a spot and commit to seeing 3-4 teams play. In Arizona, you can wake up, and plan your day based on the best pitching match-ups. In addition, Arizona provide a much nicer setting with five mountains–Camelback Mountain, the McDowell Mountains, Four Peaks, Red Mountain, and the Superstition Mountains—serving as a potential backdrop.
In addition to catching the game, as of 2011, baseball fans can also do some gambling after a Diamondbacks or Rockies game. In 2011, both opened at a new facility called Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, which was the first spring training facility to be built on Native American land. Diamondback tickets go for as little $29 to experience the the facility, which cost $100 million to build. Reviews have been ecstatically positive and there’s agreement that the facility has set a new bar for spring training facilities. Over the last 20 years, $500 million has been invested in new facilities in Arizona, and in addition to the fans, the city and teams are reaping major benefits. Last year, the Cactus League generated $300 million of economic benefit for the greater Phoenix area, according to the Arizona Republic. They also had a record-setting year of attendance, with over 1.7 million people seeing a Cactus League game. That compares to just over 1.6 million fans for the Grapefruit League. The best part of fans looking to do an Arizona baseball crawl is that the Cactus league is $6 cheaper on average than the Grapefruit league. Below is a list of each team across the two leagues ranked from most to least expensive:
|Grapefruit League||AVG Asking|
|Cactus League||AVG Asking|
Source: Forbes Business