Tucson used to be home to three Major League baseball teams during Spring Training in March.
In the last few years, the Chicago White Sox, Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies have left Tucson to play in newer stadiums in the Phoenix area. This spring, six teams are making the trip to Tucson for three special games during the Spring Training schedule.
A Major League study of Cactus League teams showed they each brought about $10 million to the cities they played in, says Tom Moulton, economic development and tourism director for Pima County. That revenue was from direct spending on hotels, restaurants and entertainment, he says.
Add in extras such as team housing for the month of spring training and the figure easily reaches $11 million, Moulton says.
The three spring training games are likely to bring in about $500,000. Moulton says most tourists who come from out of town attend games, so the county is hoping the special games this year, set for March 16, 18 and 23, will draw crowds.
In the meantime, the Kino Sports Complex is being used for more than just baseball, now that it's not a home field for regular spring training season. Recently, it was converted to a football field for a college all-star game.
"There wasn’t a bad seat in the house, and then we’re fortunate enough to have Major League Soccer, who took a look at the stadium saw how we laid it out for football, and realized perhaps we could convert it from a baseball field into a football field into a soccer field, and that’s exactly what we’ve done,” Moulton says.
That economic impact is one reason it's important to remind Major League Baseball that Tucson is a baseball town, says Mike Feder, general manager of the Class AAA Tucson Padres team, especially because Arizona is known for baseball. That was apparent in last month's Republican presidential primary debate.
CNN host John King told the Mesa crowd he was happy to be in Arizona: "I’m thrilled to be in a state that reminds us baseball season is just around the corner."
The March 23 Spring Training game in Tucson is for charity, benefiting the Christina-Taylor Green Foundation. The Los Angeles Dodgers will play the Chicago White Sox, who were contractually required to hold charity games when they were based in Tucson years ago.
"I think Major League Baseball gets it when it talks about the importance of being involved in communities and giving back. For that game for sure, if that game’s not sold out, I’ll be shocked, last year the Dodgers drew 10,000 people, that’s barely, that’s in excess of capacity that’s people sitting on the grass berms so we expect the same this year.”