Study: Cactus League economic benefits up, continue year-round

January 29, 2013
The Arizona Republic
Peter Corbett

Cactus League baseball and year-round use of its ballparks and training facilities add an estimated $632 million to Arizona economy, according to a study released Monday by the Cactus League Baseball Association.

The study found that 56 percent of the 1.7 million fans attending games this past spring were out-of-state visitors and the median stay in metro Phoenix was 5.3 nights.

Spring training accounted for $422 million in economic impact in 2012, up 36 percent from the previous study in 2007. Both were done by FMR Associates of Tucson.

A related study by Elliott D. Pollack & Co., the first of its kind, estimated that use of the 10 Cactus League ballparks and 15 baseball training complexes boosted the local economy by $210 million. That included community events and festivals.
“Spring training pumps our economic tires each spring,” said Mark Coronado, association president. “But these studies confirm that the economic benefits continue all year long.”

The Cactus League Baseball Association has been tracking attendance and the economic benefits of spring training with four previous studies, roughly every five years, since 1993. It’s an effort to quantify the return on hundreds of millions of dollars in public investment in the baseball facilities and to demonstrate the league’s impact on tourism and the economy.

The Goldwater Institute, which has been outspoken about public investment in Glendale’s sports facilities, declined to comment on taxpayer investment in spring training facilities and the economic study.

The Cactus League study showed that 67 percent of the visitors said that spring training was a primary reason for their visit to Arizona.

Spending by those visitors included car rentals, hotels, restaurants, retail, entertainment and golf.

Pam Gilbert, Fairmont Scottsdale Princess director of sales and marketing, said the Scottsdale resort has been seeing more spring training visitors from San Francisco and Colorado returning for vacations in the summer and fall.

Mark Stanton, Arizona Office ot Tourism deputy director, said that Scottsdale is likely to see a boost in visitors from San Francisco this coming spring because the Giants won the World Series in October.

The association’s initial study of year-round use of the stadiums and practice complexes has quantified the broader impact of hosting 15 teams in metro Phoenix.

Those events include concerts, races, a food-truck culinary festival, youth sports and an upcoming Jan. 2 pep rally at Salt River Fields, on the Salt River Reservation just east of Scottsdale, for the University of Oregon prior to the Fiesta Bowl.

Coronado, who also is the Surprise parks and recreation director, said community events account for 65 percent of the use of Surprise’s ballpark and training facilities and 35 percent is for Major League Baseball.

The league’s 15 teams each have their own training complexes and share 10 ballparks in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Mesa, Tempe, Peoria, Goodyear Surprise and on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.

Another ballpark is under construction in Mesa for the Chicago Cubs and should open for the 2014 season.

The 2007 study of Cactus League’s economic impact estimated the league added $310 million to the state’s economy. At the time, the league had 12 teams and the Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies and Chicago White Sox trained in Tucson.

The league has since added the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds, and all 15 teams train in metro Phoenix.

The Cactus League attracted a record attendance this past spring of 1.7 million fans, up 7.3 percent from 2011. That was an average of 7,444 fans for 230 games.

Attendance in 2007 was 1.2 million fans and an average of 6,921 per game.

The studies were funded by the Arizona Commerce Authority, Arizona Office of Tourism, Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority and the host cities for spring training.

The 2013 Cactus League season is Feb. 22 through March 30.