Cactus League Was and Always Should Be About the Business

February 20, 2013
Communications, Cactus League Association
Nathan Torres, Vice President

When the New York Giants and Cleveland Indians came to Arizona for the first Cactus League season in 1947, it was the tourism and the chance to lure new businesses and their employees to the state that drove local leaders to support baseball in the desert.

Since then, communities have made significant investments in ballparks and training facilities to attract more economic development to the area. And it has worked.

But don’t take my word for it. Just start up a conversation with a Cubs fan in Mesa or a Giants fan in Scottsdale. Chances are they either own a business or a home here in the Valley because of a love for Arizona that started thanks to spring training.

Cactus League pioneers Dwight Patterson, Alice and Ted Sliger, Roy Drachman of Tucson and even local developer Del Webb saw what baseball could do to build a local economy.

Mr. Webb was so convinced that he brought his New York Yankees to Arizona in 1951 to train for one year at Phoenix Municipal Stadium as a way to coax his East Coast friends out for a look at homes he was building in a new development he called Sun City!

Over the past couple of decades, spring training communities have done a patchwork job of leveraging the Cactus League to help achieve economic development goals.

Some of us are using the draw of a game to talk business relocation with visiting CEOs, but we could do more. What we really need is a partnership with the State, perhaps the new Arizona Commerce Authority, to turn baseball games into grand openings and job fairs.

We need a more aggressive marketing plan to identify CEOs and get them out here for a game and negotiations. And we need to make sure we know who is visiting already. There are stories of CEOs slipping into town as baseball fans, leaving without a chance to talk business.

Cactus League founders knew the power of spring baseball to develop lifelong fans of the warm weather and friendly business climate. It is time to channel their vision and our ballpark investments into a driving force for new jobs and economic opportunities Valley wide.