SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- If you're heading west to Arizona to see spring training games, you'll find 10 modern venues (five of them shared), all built since 1992.
And the one that virtually all the others were modeled on is Scottsdale Stadium, spring home of the Giants and the second ballpark known by that name on the site, the corner of Osborn Road and Drinkwater Boulevard near Old Town Scottsdale. Yes, "Drinkwater Boulevard", even though there's precious little water in Arizona.
The first stadium on the site was built in 1955. It hasn't always been the Giants' home; the Baltimore Orioles (1956-58), Boston Red Sox (1959-65), Chicago Cubs (1967-78) and Oakland Athletics (1979-84) used the old stadium as their training base. The Giants have trained in Scottsdale since 1985. But by 1991 the old Scottsdale Stadium, built mostly out of wood and looking outdated, had to be replaced.
An $8.4 million new park was started right after spring training 1991 and finished in time for the Giants to play there in 1992. The difference was startling; it was the first spring training stadium to have an outfield grass berm, now one of the most popular features for fans. There was one scary incident during that first spring training; Matt Keough, who had played several years in Japan, was trying to make it back to the major leagues with the Angels. He was hit in the head in the dugout by a line drive and was fortunate that there's a hospital literally right across the street; he had brain surgery and recovered, though he never played again. The city of Scottsdale added something that's now considered regulation for every dugout in baseball -- a screen to block similar line drives.
In 2005-06, the "Charro Lodge" was added to the right-field area at a cost of $23.1 million; it's used for groups and is considered "premium" seating. They also added, at that time, a walkway behind the scoreboard so you can circle the entire place on a walking tour.
Ticket prices are higher than in much of the Cactus League; this is obviously due to the popularity of the Giants, always one of the top draws in Arizona and especially just one year removed from a World Series title. Tickets generally range from about $13-$40 but the Giants are using for spring ticketing the same dynamic pricing system they use for regular season games in San Francisco, and as you can see, some games are less expensive, but some are more. A lot more. Choose carefully if you don't really care which Giants opponent you're seeing, but just want to see baseball.
Unlike some of the stadiums built since 1992 that have large complexes and parking surrounding them, Scottsdale Stadium has little attached parking. If you can get there early, there's some free street parking (and right nearby, small lots charging $10), and if you're willing to walk a little, you can park in free parking garages closer to downtown Scottsdale. Or you can ride a free trolley that stops at many local hotels and other places in Scottsdale.
Concession prices are also high -- more than major-league high, as I found out; your basic 16-ounce bottle of domestic beer is $8, and while they do have a pretty good selection of grilled sandwiches that come with chips, those are all $10. You can get the same garlic fries you can get in San Francisco -- you can smell them everywhere and they're awfully tempting -- but I'd recommend the wok-fried soba noodles, which come with vegetables and are a filling lunch for $7.
One thing that's particularly nice about this 20-year-old park is that it doesn't feel old; it's been kept up over that period of time and, since it's somewhat smaller than some of the new complexes, it has some of the old intimate feeling that spring training parks had before the complex era. The Giants have a full- and half-practice field adjacent to the main field where you can watch players up close; that's a nice touch, especially since their minor-league complex is about a mile down the road at Hayden & Indian School (admission free, if you want to just hang out and watch a minor-league game).
You're also within walking distance of Old Town Scottsdale and its shops and restaurants, including the recently-reopened Pink Pony, a long-time hangout of baseball people, and Don & Charlie's, crammed full of baseball memorabilia and where you're likely to see non-baseball celebrities.
Scottsdale Stadium is well worth the trip if you're in the Phoenix area for spring training, even if you're not a Giants fan. Just bring extra cash.