$31 million in upgrades for spring training in Peoria
February 18, 2014
New spring-training clubhouses in Peoria for the Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres have more room, updated equipment and state-of-the-art features that team officials say will put them back on a competitive level with other Cactus League teams with new facilities.
The baseball teams moved into the expanded facilities at the Peoria Sports Complex this week after the city spent about $31 million over the last nine months to tear down the 20-year-old clubhouses and build new ones.
The new buildings are about 60 percent bigger and more energy efficient. The areas within the facilities have better flow so players, coaches and team personnel can travel more easily between such places as the locker room, dining area, weight room and training area. Each building also has an expanded training room and hydrotherapy room with two hot tubs, two cold tubs and a resistance pool with built-in treadmill.
Mariners Assistant General Manager Jeff Kingston said they had outgrown their old facility, which was designed and built in the early 1990s, and were “behind the times a little bit.” He said that put them at a competitive disadvantage with teams at newer facilities like Surprise Stadium, Salt River Fields and the newly rebuilt Hohokam Stadium.
“Coaches were sharing locker rooms, we had to really stagger our workouts in the performance center weight-room area, players weren’t able to get maybe (the) best (level of) care as they could have. We only had one hot tub, one cold tub that players would have to share,” he said.” All those things (in the new facility) will help our players both develop and receive better care and treatment, which should help them in the long run.”
The facilities include the teams’ major- and minor-league locker rooms, weight rooms, training rooms, cafeterias and administrative offices. Though the major-league teams play in their home cities during the regular season, the teams use the spring-training facilities year-round for minor-league teams and to treat injured players. Players also can train there in the off-season.
Both teams played key roles in designing their new facilities. A main focus was improving the flow throughout the facility and increasing connectivity between the building and outdoor practice areas.
The old facilities had few hallways, so personnel frequently had to walk through rooms to get from one area to another. The new buildings have hallways throughout and related areas, such as the weight room, training room and locker room, that are close to each other.
“This renovated facility flows much better,” Padres Vice President and Assistant General Manager Fred Uhlman said.
The teams focused the majority of their design improvements on the areas utilized by players, each adding their own touches to their facilities.
The Mariners separated the spaces for their minor-league and major-league players, including separate kitchens, dining rooms and training rooms, though the players will share a large patio space, weight room and hydrotherapy room. They brought in custom carpeting with the team logo and tripled the size of their weight room.
“We hope to create a culture where a lot of our players want to come live here in the off-season and train here and train together and push each other,” Kingston said. “Overall, it’ll just create a better developmental environment where the kids are happier, they’re hungrier, they’re more motivated to use the state-of-the art facilities to maximize their potential.”
Palm trees mix with desert landscaping around the front entrance to the Padres’ facility, adding a touch of San Diego. To take advantage of Arizona’s spring-time weather, the team sought a larger patio at which players can eat, as well as a large second-story deck overlooking the main practice field. The major-league locker room has a large team logo in the middle of the carpeted floor and high ceilings with a skylight.
Both teams’ facilities back up to batting cages and pitching galleries, and are closer to the practice fields, improving the connection between all the areas players need for training, practice and therapy.
Uhlman said the design and features in the new facility will impact all of their operations, but will have the largest impact on the players.
“We wanted to create an environment that is able to maximize our training and rehab of players, but also an atmosphere that encourages people to be at the complex and spend time there, not just while on the field,” Uhlman said.
The new facilities were part of a 20-year lease extension to keep both teams at the city-owned sports complex, the West Valley’s oldest spring-training ballpark, which opened in 1994.
Peoria Engineering Director Andy Granger said the new facilities were necessary because the old ones were outdated and didn’t serve the present needs of the teams, which in the last two decades have grown in size and adopted modernized player-development practices.
“Spring training has grown in the Valley significantly over the past 20 years, and what you’ll see today marks what is the state-of-the-art clubhouses for the future,” he said.
Construction began in April after the close of spring training. Crews had nine months to tear down and rebuild the approximately 56,000- and 60,000-square-foot facilities before the start of this year’s season.
Adam Hardy, project manager with Mortenson Construction, said the tight time frame was challenging but “very fun.” The company has worked on multiple Cactus League stadiums, including Camelback Ranch and Salt River Fields, and does sports projects across the country, he said.
The lease extension also calls for the city to spend $7 million on stadium renovations. Officials expect to complete the designs this spring and plan to break ground after July 4. The renovations are set to be completed in January.
The improvements include adding a new entrance, a new team store and a second souvenir shop, and a club-level party deck for use before and after games, as well as replacing the third-base grandstands with fixed seating and air-conditioned high-top seats with drink rows underneath.
“Most of our stadium is going to be really based on fan experience,” said Chris Calcaterra, Peoria’s sports facilities manager.